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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Wacky Mexican Cake, Maximum Study Time, And A New Drawing Series

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Today is a day of pause. The morning rose grey blue and fog-covered. I call it “brumineux,” a mix of the French words for luminous and foggy. I am listening to The Oh Hellos and trying to think what I could tell of this week, this world, and what things of use have come my way.

The center closes to the public for five weeks starting tomorrow, so that we, the folks that run this place, can get edjumucated. So that when you come here we can tell you not just what times meals are and where to park your car, but also maybe some useful things about um, you know, the Dharma or something. And also so that we have the opportunity to benefit from the teachings and development we generally devote our time to make available to others.

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We started classes this past week. It is both elevating and, erm, hardcore. The topic of last week was suffering. How it happens, why it happens, that’s it is all around us even when we aren’t paying attention to us. Chew on that. Also how to get out of it, fortunately (Yay!). Which is to understand that the self is an illusion and permanence is an illusion. Which I am barely just beginning to have a useful conception of, but if you have questions, go ask a Lama because I am just not there yet. Maybe one day.

In the meantime, I am busy between class sessions cooking for Khenpo Rinpoche, our adorable and unimaginable wise teacher, and also squeezing in moments to make cake and chicken soup for my leetle Dharma family, the members of which have been both having birthdays and getting sick a lot lately. (The Buddha said something about aging and sickness didn’t he? Maybe he was onto something there…).

IMG_0799So right, cake and pictures.

Cake: this is wacky cake, a one-bowl, no eggs, no dairy chocolate deliciousness. It is Mexican because there is cinnamon, chili, and coconut frosting involved. I made it for the birthday of a wacky Mexican, so it basically couldn’t be more perfect. It’s simple to make, complex in flavor and surprising without tasting weird.

Pictures: I’ve begun doing one a day, roughly, just to keep me drawing. Because I think I’m funny, I call the series “Valeurs Journalières Recommandées,” which is French for Recommended Daily Values. Each image is a drawing and caption of a thing I’m wishing for each day. Not all are things that would be nourishing them, but expressing them is. Here you see, “to calm down a bit,” (still suffering from that old hag insomnia, but better days/nights seem to be slowly arriving), and “to have care for all beings like that of Khenpo Rinpoche” because his care for beings is boundless and gentle and full of humor, and that, my friends, does a being good. I can testify.

Recipe follows…

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