Pre-Holidays And Persimmon Pudding

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Happy Solstice! This photo is blurry, but if you look at it like it’s an abstract painting, it works. The colors! It was like that in real life.

And happy Monlam too! I woke up at four this morning to watch the livestream of the final day of Kagyu prayers in Bodh Gaya, and well, I’m a little loopy now for the lost sleep, but it was totally worth it. It’s good to be part of a community that cares about beings.

I’m enjoying the unexpected arrival of Christmas break (yeah, even Buddhists take off for Christmas). Even though I knew it was coming, the fact that I’d get, like, time off, hadn’t really registered until I sent off my fully finished budget and realized I suddenly no longer had a list of grueling, urgent things to do.

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Even though I spent most of this week totally exhausted whilst trying to check off all the things on the aforementioned list, now that it’s break, I just feel, like I’m floating. Carried by a breeze. Life is happening, and I get to be part of it.

I have dreams and plans and goals and wishes. I have people to work on them with and exchange field notes along the way. The above comes from the first-ever meeting of Dhagpo’s newly-formed Tibetan language study group. I can very haltingly respond to the question, “What’s your name?” and I can pretty much pronounce the alphabet right (-ish, if I stare at the ceiling and spit a lot for certain letters).

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Tomorrow I’m heading to Bordeaux to pick up the sis, for a ground-breaking, non-family-unit Christmas. It’s a little strange, but hey, things change and even if my family doesn’t look the same on Christmas as it used to, I have this feeling that we’re all on the right track even if it’s not easy. And that matters more.

Because Solstice and Christmas and even this pseudo-cold weather we’re having mean making all baked goods loaded with spices, here’s a perfect holiday recipe. Before today, I’d eaten persimmon pudding once in my life (at a friend’s house in high school, homemade by her mom with persimmons from the backyard), but the experience so marked me with its deliciousness that I vowed to one day recreate it. When one of my new English students sent me home with a bag of hachiya persimmons, I knew what was coming down the line. Tender, moist-to-almost-gooey, earthyfruityspicy winter goodness. Also, it’s gluten free, because I can.

Recipe…

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S’mores Cake and The Slow Life

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This is birthday cake. According to my cohort here at the center, it’s also the best cake I’ve yet to make. There were some mutters that the red velvet might still give it a run for its money, but all-told, it was a major hit. As was intended. I made it for the only other resident American, and I felt the need to go all-out for the sake of nationalistic solidarity, and well, also, because s’mores. The French don’t know or understand them, and I’m not sure this cake really clarified the situation as it only resembles its inspiration in flavor and not at all in form, but in any case, I’ve convinced them that this strange American phenomena called a “s’more” is a good and delicious thing.

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This picture is blurry and not the most tantalizing, but you can see the tattooed hand of the birthday boy in the background, and so I decided to include it. He’s off gallivanting around India for the next month, taking spectacular photos and bringing together art, communication, and the amazing lineage of Tibetan Buddhism we have the good fortune to be a part of.

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I’m keeping it real in the Dordogne writing budgets for the Lama House and trying to train myself to read practice texts with something resembling a proper Tibetan accent. If you want to see me stare intently at the ceiling and spit a lot while I try to produce a convincing ཁ (kha), stop by the community room after lunch, where my patient friend Julie gives me pointers based on her studies in Katmandu. I might not be able to speak yet, but I can hear alright, and I’m grateful to have somebody around with a decent accent and the generosity to help me work on mine. Also, I’ve started giving English lessons to a few folks who live nearby, which is a blast honestly and a nice way to meet people in a different context than my role as an uber-busy volunteer. It’s been a very linguistic couple of weeks, I guess.

I wouldn’t say that life is exciting, but it’s enriching. I’ve taken to listening to Brahms’ violin sonatas while doing office work, and yesterday a few of us took a break from the daily grind to share a hearthside dinner at a friend’s house; such things give me this strange feeling of settling inside. That despite my longtime penchant for wandering and adventure-seeking, I’m learning something about stillness. How to find the joy and the resources to get through and even appreciate the slow-going, unglamorous business of doing what needs to be done.

IMG_2983Recipe follows… Continue reading

Goose Egg Grapefruit Chocolate Cake And A Question Of Choice

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A friend of mine, a regular visitor to the center, has geese. Like ya do; it’s pretty common in the Dordogne. Sometimes I arrive at the Lama House to be greeted by a basket full of super jumbo-sized eggs with dark, giant yolks and silky smooth whites. They make the creamiest scrambled eggs and the omelette-iest omelettes. They also make good cake. I don’t think I could pick out a goose egg cake from a table full of regular ones, but I do think if you made the same cake with goose eggs or chicken eggs, there would be a subtle taste and texture difference, as goose eggs have slightly more fat than chicken eggs. That said, eggs are eggs and when you give me eggs, you pretty much always get cake.

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I have made a concerted effort to dial back my cake production recently in support of other activities. After spending the better part of September and October working through the fact that it’s okay with me to never become a master baker or a successful professional artist, now I’m in the interesting position of seeing what rises to the top when I create space for other priorities.

A teacher in whom I have a lot of confidence recently told me that if I am serious about aspiring to teach Dharma one day myself, competence in Tibetan language is an essential foundation. Which I will gain in approximately two hundred years if I keep going at the rate I’m going. Not so useful for results in this lifetime.

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But what is my goal in learning Tibetan anyway? But what is the goal with teaching, really?

At the end of the day, I just want to get better at being a person until I’m so good at it that I no longer have to come back and be a person again in order to keep working on being a person. And I want to help others do that too.

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Almost since I first discovered Buddhism, teaching has been in my mind. I’ve never been so grateful to people in my life (other than to my parents, who gave me this life) as to the people who have helped me start making sense of this life, who gave me the tools to observe my own mind. Early on, one of my teachers said that we must ask ourselves what our responsibility is for the teachings we have been given—to put them into practice and also to conserve them and help make them available to others. If those who came before us had not made the effort to safeguard the teachings and transmit them authentically, we would not be able to receive them now.

And a light went off in my head, and I thought, “Holy shit. That’s a serious debt.” I am fortunate to have come into contact with this wisdom, fortunate beyond measure as far as I can tell. It’s not easy to find a truth that corresponds with both who you are and the way the world is, i.e. the nature of reality. When you find it, you owe it to others to get the word out. That’s how I see it anyway.

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It’s more than a little daunting though. I am little and dreamy and untamed. I like colors and cake and playing around in the woods. And it’s not nothing to say you want to teach Dharma. When you take that on, you put yourself up as a bridge between people and the masters who can truly guide them; you represent your own teachers and the tradition you have been trusted with. You can’t be on an ego trip and you seriously have to know your shit (you should probably give up cursing, too). But somebody has to try. And even if I don’t make it in this lifetime, I get the sense I’ll learn more trying than I would doing anything else.

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And so, what to do? Do I need to do anything particular? Spending more than an hour a week studying Tibetan is probably a good start. After that, the possible wheres and whens and hows are other questions and other choices that will be answered by time and copious research and hopefully a bit of feedback from people with longer vision than mine. In the meantime, cake to supplicate the Buddhas such that the path becomes clear.

This cake is special. I made a trial one that didn’t so much work. But it had so much potential I came back a day later to give it another go. FYI, I never do this. Generally, I make random experiments while taking careful notes and the good stuff shows up here. But this time, I took the time to alter the technique and up the chocolate quantity, and I’m so glad I did. What makes this cake special, besides its evolution, is its crumb. This is a dense cake, but it is also super tender. Rare combo. I’m proud. Please try it. You’ll be proud too.

Recipe…

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Rainstorms, Rhubarb Crumble Tart, And The Busted Past Conditional

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Yesterday at lunchtime someone told me it was good to see me smiling again, and it made me want to shout or cry or run away. Instead I just shook my head and said, still smiling, “Oh come on, there are already so few places where it’s okay to feel things…” and left it at that. And he just affirmed that he was glad that I was doing better, and I spent the rest of the day working out why that’s not okay with me. Let me try and explain.

If you saw me crying in the temple in the evening, soggily saying my prayers. If you saw me climbing the hill to the Institute with a closed face and a cloud knit into my brow. If you passed me midmorning at a picnic table with pens and paper when I could have been, maybe should have been, in some one else’s natural order of things, already tapping away at a computer in the cold darkness of the office. If you heard me singing hymns at the top of my voice while hanging out laundry to dry. If you worried that I was not okay. If you wondered what was wrong.

Let me assure you. I’m okay. But lots of things are wrong.

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My socks have holes in them. The milk I drank with breakfast makes my stomach hurt. I can never seem to conjugate the conditional past tense correctly in French, and it worries me that I seem to use it so often—all the things I would have done, or should have done. I hung my laundry on the line but it keeps raining just enough that the afternoon sun isn’t enough to dry my clothes and they’ve been out there four days now.

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It’s been a year since my parents decided to get divorced and even though we’re all mostly adapted now, I still have to work hard not to choke when some one kindly says, “It must be hard for you being so far from home. You must miss your family,” and I say, “There’s not much sense in missing my family. The family I grew up with doesn’t exist anymore.”

It’s been three-and-a-half months since my teacher died and I try not to talk about it too much because I wonder how much you can grieve publicly before people tire of you or tune you out. Or maybe I just don’t know how to talk about my grief because I’m no longer willing to treat it as something to get over.

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Things are always wrong. Sometimes it’s big things and it’s definitely always little things. I have spent my life trying to forget this, to look on the bright side and wait for things to get better. And they always do. And then they un-get better later. And every time I experience loss anew, it feels like the first time. I’m as shocked and disoriented as I ever was. Doubt rises, confidence ebbs, and the ability to move forward temporarily suspends. With time, and softness, and grieving, I find my way back. I relearn how to live with a family that’s pieces instead of a unit, without the physical presence of the teacher who’s guidance I seek daily, with holes in my socks, with a stomach ache, wet laundry, and a busted conditional past tense.

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I get so used to it that I start to forget. From one day to the next, comfort sneaks back. I feel better not because I’ve learned how to live with loss but because I haven’t lost anything new lately and I’ve returned to ignoring the old losses. But loss is not a jar that you can shake, that you can take things out of and put things into. Loss is an ephemeral thing. A stinging pain brought to life by the meeting of a wish for something and the reality of the absence of that thing. Loss is wishing for things to be some other way than they are. Loss is a refusal of the fact that this world is dynamic down to its very atoms, that we don’t even understand what makes matter be there, and yet we relate to all things as though they should be there when we want them, miss them, need them.

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And I’ll tell you what. Loss hurts less when I remember that it’s normal. That for all my scientific and philosophical training, the table looks like a table to me, a thing I can rely on. I’m expecting it to be there tomorrow and the day after and five seconds from now. And if one day my table burns or breaks or yields to thieving hands, in its absence I will still refer to it as a wholesome thing.

My table will still exist for me in the memory of my table, even though it never was more than a collection of whirring atoms in a certain arrangement in a certain time and place, and maybe not even that. And my family as an integral thing exists in my memory, which is what allows me to think of it as a broken thing today. And because my teacher was once with me, now I feel he’s gone. My life is a series of labels that I do not want to change. But the world we experience is nothing other than the expression of change.

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And I haven’t learned how to smile about that yet. I’ve learned how to sing about it, write about it, dance, paint, think, and cry about it. But I have not yet learned how to feel joy without forgetting sadness. I can do contentment, gratitude, even love mixed with sadness. But joy’s too shiny and seductive for me to live it and leave space for loss. I’m working on it, but at least for now, I have a favor to ask.

Please, don’t wish me to feel better. I will, one day or another. But also, what goes up must come down. And for the time being, the fall hits hard. So please, let me be shadowy—rainstormed—if need be. Let me be quiet and dark, tear-stained and tired-faced, when the time calls for it. It’s for a good cause. I’m trying to understand impermanence.

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À propos of nothing…rhubarb tart. I could stretch it and make a connection. Rhubarb is a seasonal vegetable, an obvious sign of the changing times; summer into fall is the kind of impermanence I can wrap my head around, even if this Indian summer we’re living in the Dordogne is, in its own way, another kind of denial. But whatever the temperature, the leaves are falling off the trees and the acorns are hitting my roof with an insistent “thwack!” and change is, you know, happening to everything.

This tart is just right for an Indian summer that hangs on into October. Bright and fruity with late-season rhubarb and plums, but sidling into autumn with a warming crumble topping. Perfect for afternoon tea as reward for staying awake through long hours in meetings (that’s how we did it), or also just because, or also with ice cream for dessert or with coffee for breakfast. You decide.

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Recipe… Continue reading

A Click, With Nutella Pancake Cake

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This keeps happening. Pictures. In small moments—stolen corners chipped off mornings, half hours snuck out of afternoons. I get the pencil on the paper and…something happens.

I’ll tell you what. Something’s happened. All this babbling I’ve been doing for the last few months (the last few years and all my life I suppose, but with more concerted effort recently) has worked itself into some kind of useful understanding. As the French say, it’s made a click in my brain.

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I won’t lie. I still harbor that childhood yearning for conventional success and artistic recognition. In my private dream world, success is a solo show at the MoMA—New York of course, with its two story entry overlooked by a balcony and cool light seeping in from tall windows. There’s a kind of confidence and joy that suffuses this image; it’s not the notoriety that counts but the diffusion.

Big museums mean reaching people, and underneath all the identity crises and visions of grandeur, I think I perpetually feel like I felt on the first day of kindergarten: I just want to connect. A show at the MoMA is like holding my arms wide open for the whole world (This isn’t a fair accounting in terms of economic opportunities and class issues but it’s a good way to end the sentence and probably about as close as I could get. Anyway.).

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To connect with others, you first have to connect with yourself. That’s the click. For me, connecting with an image means letting myself be exactly where I am and feel exactly what I feel in the moment of creation without judgment or elaboration. This is the basis of my art practice and why it matters to me. Yeees, I hope that my work can go places and connect other people with wherever they are and however they feel, but you can’t share a cake you haven’t made, if you know what I mean. So I’m working on just making cake. And it seems to be working.

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Which is a confusing metaphor, probably, since I make a lot of literal cake in addition to metaphorical cake. This week’s is an unusual twist on an Internet trope. Instead of dessert disguised as breakfast, it’s breakfast disguised as dessert: buttermilk pancakes with nutella turned into a nifty layer cake. I subbed goat’s milk yogurt for buttermilk since it’s easier to find around here. It adds a slight earthiness to the tang, but isn’t a notable enough difference to shell out for goat yogurt if you don’t live in a place where it’s simply the easy way out.

I really liked this pancake recipe, as it makes for slightly chewy, fluffy pancakes rather than cakey, tender ones. Stacked up and spread with chocolate-y, hazelnut goodness and dusted with a snow of icing sugar, it’s classy enough to pass for cake even though it’s really just lazy Sunday brunch.IMG_2396

 

Recipe (assembly instructions really) follow…

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Afternoon Adventures and Cinnamon Squash Cake

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Yesterday I took myself on a mini field trip. It was partly a failed attempt to buy a government stamp to pay for my visa (which has been issued—hallelujah! Can you hear the bells ringing? Because I can.) that I get to pick up in Perigueux tomorrow, but I turned it into a sweet little afternoon outing. I wandered through town reading the opening and closing times of various establishments and concluding that all errands should be done between the hours of ten and noon on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. I sometimes wonder how things get done in France. I stumbled onto a craft show that did happen to be open (and run by some British ladies), bought a felt owl to cover my phone, and strolled around snapping pictures with said phone. Later, I went down to the river to draw. And if you have Alison Krauss stuck in your head, I think it works because making things is a kind of prayer too, isn’t it? It’s a kind of looking for harmony and the internal calm and courage to let a thing or help a thing come into this world.

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I tried to take pictures by the river too, but I struggled a bit with my iPhone, which takes excellent photos when the light is perfect, and when the light is not perfect takes mostly overexposed nightmares or blurry frustrations. No luck with the river photos; I think the reflections puzzle my little Mac camera’s brain. But I did manage to get a shot of my favorite street in Montignac, which makes me chuckle every time I pass it, if only because the name feels a lot like my life a lot of the time: The Impasse of Sentiment. Feelings: you just have to live with them.

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My feelings lately are that I’m grateful that I have a little time to sit around and think about my feelings. To ask myself what images are for, what words are for, what food is for. To find out that my camera takes square pictures and knock myself out taking abstract-y photos of my feet and the tire marks in the town parking lot. I only posted one here—I don’t want to tire you guys out—but trust me, there are many. I’m grateful to get to stop and consider what this little internet space is for: what is does for me, what could be awesome if it does for others, what makes it work and what makes it not work so well.

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I realized that as much as time and organization keep me from showing up more or putting together posts that are more consistent or finished, there are also simple technical limitations. Like, as much I love my iPhone and its newfound capacity for square pictures, if I’m going to be subjecting people to my images all the time, I should maybe consider getting a decent camera. Not just for the viewer, but also for myself, to be able to construct a visual narrative more based on the story I’d like to share and less based on the few photos I managed to snap that are not atrocious.

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Ditto for food. While I admit that there is a diversity of reasons that keep me from posting recipes, two of the most frequent culprits are that my pictures are often deplorable and my recipes are hard to scale because I have very few pans that relate to anything standard. I’m learning a lot this week about how quandaries that feel complex in a busy mind can become rather simple when the mind is posed. As far as the blog goes, the basic prospect that arises is that if I really intend to develop this space as a platform for sharing and communication, I need to invest in it. Which is at once daunting and exciting (really good reasons to actually go to Ikea—buy a decent lamp for drawing. And a bundt pan!). Gonna let that simmer a bit more and see what comes to the top.

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Also, as you can see, I, um, cracked with my baking resolution. Butbut, I had to be in the kitchen for Lama anyway, and then Loïc brought home a potimarron from some one’s garden he’s helping with, and it’s almost starting to smell like autumn in the morning, and well, as much as I say I want to draw more and read more and study more and go outside more, and while away fewer of my hours in the kitchen, this cooking thing might be as ingrained in me as this art thing, and though I don’t really know what to do with that, I know that if you give me something that resembles pumpkin, you inevitably wind up with cake. Pre-autumny, afternoon snack-y, earthy, spicy cake.

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Recipe follows…

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Nutella Swirl Brioche And A Kitchen Hiatus

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Um, so. Let’s talk about bodies. Get your mind out of the gutter! This discussion is purely practical.

Bodies are pretty great. They anchor us in time and space, and give us the stability to keep track of our experiences and thus make some kind of sense of how things work. Our minds, our bodies themselves, and both of these in relation to the world around us. Plus, bodies have other added benefits too. They let us experience beauty. The beauty of human contact, of course, and many other kinds of beauty too. Food, music, sport, art, nature, you name it.

The case for bodies being awesome is pretty good. But bodies have downsides too. They’re pretty vulnerable and not very durable. They get tired; they get sick; they get old. Eventually they crap out and die. In that sense, bodies are kind of a raw deal, aren’t they. But, being as we don’t have much choice in the matter as to whether we want a body or not, the question is, as ever, what to do?

IMG_2247Through history, humans have tested a whole range of approaches, from the Hedonists to the Ascetics. Over here in my little corner, I’m just trying to make the best of things. Trying to use this body to learn as much as I can and give as much as I can. I try (trryyy…eet’s not so eeeasy) not to go running after beauty, but just to truly appreciate what comes my way and use it as a reminder that beings are, indeed, capable of understanding and communicating with one another. I sometimes have doubts about this point, so it’s good to have confirmation. Feeling moved by what some one else has created serves for this.

And when my body has a hard time and gets tired and sick, I try to be patient and not get too grumpy about it. I would like to be able to say, “I try to take care of my body and give it what it needs to get better.” But I don’t think that’s particularly true. I generally relate to my body as being vulnerable and temporary, and rather than having sympathy for its weaknesses, I treat them like unfortunate side effects of the whole mortality thing and, um, mostly just ignore them.

But, after the last few months, I have to consider that the combination of pressure, lack of sleep, and a lot of time spent in the kitchen around interesting food leads to complications for a body that has difficulty digesting and assimilating…who really knows but it feels like anything at this point. I hate to get into health issues because I start to feel like the cranky old Jewish-Chinese lady that, with any luck, I will someday live to be, and also because it’s not my goal to complain. Well, maybe it is a little bit.

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It’s hard to know what a body needs. It’s hard to know what to change that will actually help. It’s hard to know how much of this is sickness and how much of this is just having a body and not being nice enough to it. I’ve cut out a lot of things at one point or another, and one thing I know makes a difference is sugar. Hard to know whether it’s the magical, mythical substance itself or the excess that becomes suddenly unavailable when you take it off the table (pun intended). In any case, whether it’s sugar or just the wealth of instant gratification available in a busy kitchen, it’s time for a sabbatical.

I made this brioche for a friend from out of town. She came to help out at Dhagpo in July, and I promised I’d make her a cake if she’d come back for her birthday. The cake was a ploy; we’re hoping she’ll stay, but that’s another story. The story for today is this: This brioche is great. It’s visually elegant but otherwise homey. It’s dense and rich and filled with chemical, store-bought deliciousness. I call it cheater brioche because the removal of salt, the addition of extra yeast, and the adaptation to melted butter render it make-able in a quick morning, rather than the standard overnight agony of proper brioche. Basically, it’s a win. It’s also the last recipe I’ll be posting for the uncertain future because, well…bodies. Time to look after this one. I’m taking a break from the kitchen.

Recipe follows…

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To Unite The Family (Choco-Vanilla Cupcakes Are Not A Bad Start)

**Quick note. So I had this whole plan to publish everything related to To Dare To Offer on the project page to funnel people over there with the idea that this makes it more likely that folks will donate, but I’ve realized a few things.

At its base, this project is about sharing. My goal is to tell stories and connect people. Yes, at this moment, I’m seeking support to be able to tell a particular story in a particular time and place, but I also don’t want to make people click on four different things to get to a story, just in the hopes that they’ll donate. Donation is meant to be a positive experience of involvement and camaraderie, not some kind of sneaky gimmick. So. The donation link is at the bottom; the story is here.

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Today is about connection, about Shamar Rinpoche’s vision of community, and taking action to make it real.

Today a group of Dhagpo folks piled into cars and went to visit a sister center called Marfond. Unlike Dhagpo, which is a public center, Marfond is a retreat center, where the volunteers spend eight months in closed practice. Their retreat ended in May, and they came to help us prepare before Shamarpa’s big teaching. They’ve been here often since his death to take part in group practice.

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Shamarpa set up and supported many different microcosms within the Kagyu lineage, different approaches for different kinds of people. At the same time, he wanted us to work together, and now we finally are. Since he died, students from different centers with different styles and in many ways different cultures, have been coming together to mourn and to celebrate our teacher, but also to exchange, to discover, and to develop a shared vision of the future. We’re realizing that the community, the mandala, as it’s called, isn’t just the people we know and work with every day, but tons of other people practicing and growing in the same tradition.

And beyond that, as support pours in from individuals, groups, cities even that don’t have anything to do with the lineage or Buddhism at all, I for one, am seeing ever more clearly that community is everyone, so long as we are willing to connect. I know the folks at Marfond will be grateful to follow what’s happening in Kathmandu, and for this alone it’s worth sharing, but who knows who else might connect with this moment and this story. Sometimes you just have to throw things out into the universe, make wishes, and let things happen.

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And well, if you’re me, you also bring cupcakes everywhere you go to show that you care and you come in peace.

Wish for the day: “D’unir la famille.” To unite the family. To help bring to life Shamarpa’s wish for all of us.

If you’re feelin’ it, you can donate here.

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As far as cupcakes go, they’re a handy way to build community. This is the easiest yellow cake recipe I know with melted chocolate on top. It’s not about laziness; it’s about simplicity. It’s about things that are so good and so classic that there’s no need to embellish them. It’s also perfect for the blazing heat of summer, which keeps the chocolate deliciously partway melty.

Cupcake recipe follows…

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In Offering (With Seared Cauliflower Slices)

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Hm, it seems it’s that time of year again where I only post slightly blurry, weirdly lit photos taken in a rush while hoping that it’s not really that dark out/overexposed, when in truth I know better.

The busy season at Dhagpo Kagyu Ling has officially arrived. The Lama House is full, there remain no empty classrooms or practice spaces in which to do prostrations, and if I’m not changing sheets or cooking lunch, I’m planning menus or cleaning toilets. I’m still scraping up time here and there to meditate, and it’s a goal for this year to find more calm moments in between the rush rather than just speeding through each day. Though it’s often easier to keep running on adrenaline than to pause and realize how tired/stressed/distracted I am, I’d like to change the habit.

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On the other hand, pausing to traipse all over the kitchen, terrace, and garden in search of reasonable lighting for my seared cauliflower doesn’t currently make it into the list of priorities. Which is a shame, really, because seared cauliflower-roasted with whole garlic cloves!- is really a wonderful thing, and a decent picture would probably be much more convincing than the preceding sea of beige. Use your imagination–it’s creamy, earthy, woodsy, even, with a tad bit of caramelization from the garlic.

I cooked this dish for lunch for a visiting teacher, a rare Tibetan vegetarian, and we talked about back pain, sunshowers, and loneliness. I confess I still have a lot of that, even surrounded by people I love. Actually, I think my loneliness increases in direct proportion with the amount of love I feel. I just get so attached to all good things and people. At times, I wish I could keep every moment forever. Which is an evident contradiction, for how could we have new great moments if we didn’t let the old ones go, and what on earth would we do when the moments weren’t great, weren’t even any good? But I’m an exigent creature; I want all things now. I guess it’s for me to live with that.

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Wiser beings than me feel love without any loss, even when what they care for passes out of their field of vision or contact. They give without any need to receive. This possibility blows my mind, and furthermore, the fact that I have the good luck to welcome such folks at the center. To make them tea, turn down their sheets, and benefit from their wisdom. I am utterly grateful, to the point where I don’t even mind vacuuming, which I heartily detest in other circumstances. But after all, the masters come to teach us how to be at peace. The least I can do is to remove the cobwebs from the corners of the bedposts and put a few niceties about to make them feel welcome.

IMG_1273Recipe follows…

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A Week Of Cake, With Mocha Cheesecake And More

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We had a week of cake. Maybe you have to be stubborn to be in the Dharma. There’s a lot of Aries around here.

I made this carrot cake for my birthday. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had and definitely the best I’ve ever made. If you like dense, direct carrot cake (some people like fluffy carrot cake with pineapple and coconut, which is lost on me), this is a serious win. I opted for a little less frosting with a hint of lemon zest to brighten the spices in the cake.

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Then there was chocolate genoise with wild blackberry mousse (adapted from here and here, with agar subbed for gelatin for veggie friendliness).

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I also made a Snickers inspired tart, which has yet to have a written recipe, but if you feel like improvising, it involved peanut shortbread, homemade caramel, peanut butter white chocolate mousse and milk chocolate ganache. All the elements are simple, but the combination is a show stopper.

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And finally, mocha cheesecake (recipe after the jump).

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Above are a few drawings in the current series, plus a garland-cum-birthday card for one of the cake recipients, which pretty much captures how I feel right now:

Sometimes there are no words. And sometimes we don’t need any.

I have nothing profound to say. I am surrounded by good people. And I get to make them cake. Life is alright I guess.

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