Because Every Story Has an Ending

20161220_144242Well, almost the Winter Solstice, the year is up, my refrigerator drawers are once again filled with greens and citrus, just where I began in January.  It’s been a year of learning my limits, not necessarily all I’m capable of doing, but the limit of what I’ve chosen to do.  And what I’ve done, is what I’ve lived.

And that is the essence of Life lived period: that it’s always ALWAYS lived Near; it’s always, always what we’ve actually done.  And by that, what I mean is, is that life is the reality of itself, not the wishful thinking about the future or wistful thinking about the past.

Let me explain, using this tale I heard somewhere:

Once upon a time, a man decided to leave his house and move to a faraway island.  Three years later, he was still in his same house in a small town. 

What’s the moral of the story?

Well, the original moral is that a Decision (his decision to move) is not the same as actually doing something (moving).  Quite true, of course.  But in Life Lived Near speak, I not only want to address What Isn’t, but What Is in this story.

What isn’t moving to a faraway island is not the saving, nor the researching, nor even the packing for such a venture.  In the three years we see our fine fellow, I’ve no doubt a few other people have found themselves living on islands who never saved a dime, researched the place, or packed a single thing.  The Internet, Media, and as a consequence, even our conversations, are filled with limitless tips and resources for planning things.  Moreover, there are countless outlets for discussing the accomplishment of things–blogs, vlogs, Instagram accounts, etc.  But while all the chatter is about doing or having done, the reality is the living of chatter.  At least the majority of hours.  That’s not not living either.  It’s just that for people doing the chattering, living is, well, chatter.

And that brings me back to the man in the story.  In the three years’ time, while all those other fellows were moving to faraway islands, the Man Who Decided may have lived a happy life despite staying put.  Perhaps while saving money, he started a coin collection, or simply saw the numbers in his bank account grow.  While researching, maybe he found out about interesting island botany or how many intriguing ways islands are formed.  Perhaps he “downsized” his possessions and found his own home, less cluttered, more of a paradise than he’d at first believed.  Or maybe he did none of this things, but watched a lot of television while he tried not to think about the overwhelming task of moving to an island.  Whatever he did, he lived.

And whether you like it or not, like the man, plans great, or small, shunned or accomplished, we live what we live, our breaths are inhalations of stale atlases, astonished whistles upon seeing our financial worth, a sniff as we say goodbye to our old homes, or a grunt as we push the remote button and find nothing interesting on TV for the 1,095th day in a row.  We are our breath.  It doesn’t get much Nearer than that.

Finally, if you find you still need information on all things Food, I highly recommend The Kitchn  And, of course, if you’re in San Francisco, do yourself a favor and visit the Saturday Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, if you can.  You won’t be disappointed at the sight and flavors, especially in Spring and Summer, of course.

And speaking of Spring, though that time is a whole season away, in that warmer days, I plan to take Big Douglas, my wonderful cart, my own Rocinante in this online sally, and give him the good polish and wheel greasing that such a loyal companion deserves.

And to you loyal companions, for that’s what readers truly are, you too deserve a little something for resting your eyes upon these pages.  I have only this to offer–a wish, a prayer rather, that your remaining breaths be filled with only delicious, fresh scents, be sighs filled with contentment, be gasps at the surprises of beauty ever available not in things far or past, but even at your very feet.

Rosie Klahn

Lessons Learned: 11 Months In; Almost Goodbye

Well, it’s almost time to switch out the header photo (I’m sure there’s a real blogger word for it) to the Winter shot I took in January when I began this project.  Back then, I couldn’t allow myself to get stuck on the elusive “About” page for Life Lived Near; the priority was just to get content written.  And at that, I quickly realized “content” was not going to be only the blog entries, but the photos to go with them.

As if blogging weren’t an uphill slog before Instagram, thanks to said platform, now social media is pretty much all about the visual.  Even Twitter requires an image to be of any interest to the masses–unless you’re a wacky billionaire President-elect.  And for me, taking original photos was pretty onerous.  I have to admit, thanks to this effort, my blogging muscles have been stretched, but I’m nowhere near ready for a blogging marathon.

So, what will become of Life Lived Near?

Before I get to that, let me look at what else happened in over these last 11 months.  Well, mid-year, due to some dietary changes, the “experiment” of marketing only at the San Francisco Ferry Building rather blew up.  The exploration of seasonal eating was a great success.  If I’m not preparing seasonal foods myself, when I go out, I look for things more in that vein rather than opting for favorite, but out-of-season, options.  As a result my food is less environmentally impacting.  Between this blog and the recent election, peace, love, and non-consumerism is grown larger in my conscious than ever.  So, overall, I am happy with the result.

And while that’s all well and good, despite the fun and progress of blogging LLN, the original deadline of the “year-long” experiment still holds.

And sticking to that is also a good thing, another valid accomplishment, as far as I’m concerned.  This blog was attempted because I’d read someone else’s blog that was NOT open-ended, that covered a foreign assignment of a predetermined length.  Because of that set term, I, as a reader, could be “in” for that bounded period of time.  Knowing there was an end date encouraged my interest.  So much of life is beyond our control, that I find respite in the bounded, I am drawn to the complete–books with no hope of a sequel, poems that only take up one page, and, as said, blogs with a time-frame that lets me see the end from the beginning.  No wonder I began to like the seasonality of food!

Such things are like life itself, with its beginning and very definite end, but without those definites in mind, I know I am very likely to ignore or miss those very important middles!  And that would be a shame, for it is in those Middles where we live, those are the near, real, true things of our lives, the nows, the presents, not the yesterdays or tomorrows.  So, since that’s where I really live, where everyone really abides, in the present, why not do what we can to make sure we’re conscious of it and don’t miss a bit of it.  Hence the boundary, deadline, final bell on things–including this blog.

But, of course, with a few more weeks in 2016, I’m pretty sure there’ll be at least one more post before signing off!

 

Thankful for My Veggie Sherpa

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The Woman of the Hour–Veggie Sherpa, Cara Tramontano!

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S., and, yes, that includes San Francisco.  The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market held, as it does each year, a Wednesday Before market event so city cooks could get their holiday things at the very freshest, last, minute.  I am not cooking this year, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be celebrating the many things I have to be thankful for.

That “gratitude list” includes people in my life, and while I often feel quite grateful for my friends, this year, because of this blogging effort, I am feeling especially thankful for my friend–and Veggie Sherpa–Cara Tramontano.

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Cara is a vegetarian, yes, but her experience with produce wasn’t my primary reason for asking her to go to the Farmer’s market.  She is a true blithe spirit, and her enthusiasm about food and vegetables is only one of the many things she shines her passion on.  Her rare ability to be supportive while educating always made me eager to stretch my palate and my mind. And on the grayest days, when the drizzly weather alone was enough to make me turn back to the corner grocers, not to mention my own reticence about following through on this blog, Cara’s joie de vivre kept me going.  We all know people that make you think, “Wow, this is an old soul”–well, La Cara isn’t one of those!  There’s not a hint of blasé, in her manner–she’s 100% brand-new-to-mankind, I’d venture.  I think the Gods must’ve thought we all could use a shot in the arm, and Cara is definitely the antidote to thoughts weighty and glum!

So here’s to a heart full of love–two really–mine for my dear friend Cara, and Cara’s for the world around her!  And many, many thanks, dear girl, for your walking beside me, in fact and in spirit, in the writing of this blog.

Happy Thanksgiving, Every One!

Prince Charming Arrived in Disguise

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A pair of handsome Warren Pears, a variety something between a Bosc and a Bartlett.

Once upon a time I was a picky eater.  If a hard-cooked egg’s shell happened to split in mid-boil, and the white pulse out to form into some sort of goiter, I would not eat it.  An apple with a bruise? The whole thing had to be tossed.

Not so today, you’d say, after all, wasn’t one intention, in starting Life Lived Near, my way to combat food waste, and surely the “Ugly Fruit” movement is part of that?

Now, what’s “Ugly Fruit” again?  That’s the idea of accepting less than Instagram-worthy fruit (and other foods) so that they don’t go into landfill.  Attached to that is the possibility of charging less for these foods so that people who are challenged to buy fresh foods have more access to them.

Sigh.

Let me ignore that last idea and just move into some things I can deal with.  First, I recently saw that a baker, instead of calling his misshapen loaves, “Ugly” or “Seconds” calls them “Prince Charmings.”  I like that.  I don’t get the rationale for that particular moniker, but I like it better than “ugly.”  The food tastes just as delicious, after all!

Anyway, back to this pair of pears.  These were equal in price, and I didn’t think twice about that cost because I thought I’d selected two perfect fruits.  The cleft in one mattered not to the seller, nor, in the end, to the eater.  Both were delicious.  And while I did recognize a flash of the reticence I used to feel when I noticed the cleft I’d inadvertently selected, I was glad to have it just the same.

And finding the unexpected in your fruit is somewhat like life, isn’t it?  If you set your mind on finding things “charming,” merely “differences,” rather than flaws to reject, you might be rewarded with a delicious bite or twelve and, perhaps, even a little creative inspiration!

What might you be rewarded with if you chose to look at what at first seems rejection-able, instead, as Goodness in disguise?

Don’t Fear the Butternut/Acorn/Neck/Etc.

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Neck squash for everyone!  Photo courtesy of Nicole James

One good way to tell that I’m not a Foodie, is the fact that I don’t like squash.  No, wait, that’s not true, I’ve always liked summer squash pretty well, but when I say “squash” I mean those weird-shaped, hard shelled things you find in that strange section of the produce section, where, as a child, I was sure veggies went to stiffen and die.

Yup, that’s my take on “winter”squash–or it was.  The years have helped me venture out of those spooky thoughts and into restaurants where people who know what to do with them–aka chefs–present them like a cat offers up a dead lizard, with all the pride they can muster.  Who was I to retreat from those platefuls of love, so into the fray and fork into the mouth and well, sir/ma’am, what do ya know!  That funeral parlor of veggies was not the bin of last resort after all, but a certifiable meet-and-greet for delicious.  I can’t say I crave squash as regularly as I do, say, Brussels sprouts, but I do want some when things turn autumnal.

One of the beautiful things about a farmer’s market, is that the produce there is grown for flavor not appearance/size, so you can easily find a one-meal-for-two squash or as I called the one I chose, “The World’s Smallest Butternut.”  My friend, Nicole, grows something called a Neck Squash, which comes with it’s own scary appendage–a thick, exaggerated, well, neck.  No mini-squash for her–with a family of six, those big, old squash mean plenty for everyone.

One of the other things I love about squash is that it is a food of the Americas, native to the region and, though not served in my childhood home as “ancestor food,” very common in Latin cooking.  Last January, squash, then getting quite scarce, was featured in the potato skins prepared by Chef Jorge Lumbreras.  His version was a healthful, savory version.  Today, I will be making mine with butter, syrup, a few pecans and raisins.  Okay, I admit, nothing can taste bad with those additions, but I promise to make a savory version sometime soon when I have some kale in the house.  (I’m actually on “staycation” this week, so if I have to cook, it may have a bit of the pleasure I’d usually get from someone else prepping, cooking and cleaning up at restaurants if I were dining out.)

Same old baked chicken?  The last of the summer pattypan squash?  Try adding a little “winter” squash for a meal so delicious it seems almost wicked!

Challenge yourself:  Go get that Fall fruit or veggie that you’ve never tried and try it!  Use that force for good–the Interwebz–to find out how to use it!  Or treat yourself:  go to a fine restaurant you don’t usually go to and let a real chef expand your palate!

 

 

Pomegranate De-Seeding, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I tried out one method of getting the seeds from a pomegranate–hitting it with a wooden spoon–and found it quite successful.  Truth be told, it is such an efficient method, I haven’t been able to resist simply opening up my poms and gobbling up the spanked-out seeds so quickly that I haven’t had a chance to try the second method–plucking them out underwater.  The Pom novelty must be wearing thin because I was able to slow down enough to experiment with one today.  And now the results of underwater seed plucking–

Ewww–what a pain!  While I didn’t find that the method “watered down” the flavor, as was suggested by my pom seller, it meant pulling off, along with the seeds, quite a bit of the white-ish mesocarp (ah, you can find out everything on the Interwebz) that holds the seeds.  Though this material floated and the arils went to the bottom of the bowl, it was  still a pain trying to skim it off before straining off the water.  I won’t be using this method again, not even when poms get super juicy later in the season.  Then, I’ll definitely not want to “water down” all that good juice.

No doubt about it, spanking your pomegranate is the simplest method I’ve found to date.  I hope you’ll try it out next time your tempted to skip these luscious red fruits simply because they’ve been so hard and so messy to prepare in the past!

Pink Shoes and Orange Leaves

Today I went out for a walk.  With a LOT of luck, we will get a rainy fall and winter–my home state, California, really needs it–so while it’s still dry and cool, this is the perfect time of year to get moving!  Despite the occasional run to the Ferry Building or errands in my very walkable city, I’ve been doing a lot of sitting the last few weeks so getting out and about today was a mini-revelation.  Of course I can get Pumpkin Spice Whatever and All Things Orange at every store in in the country, but just outside my home are piles of leaves, seemingly more “fall-ish” than in previous years.  Maybe that’s a benefit of our dry season?

Anyway, I took various photos of those leaves, including the shoes I just happened to be wearing at the moment, for a new header for Life Lived Near.  Yes, it would be a lovelier photo if I were wearing something brown and leathery, but LLN is about living as one actually lives, not in some aspirational Insta-worthy fantasyland.  In my real life, the shoes I walk in are matched to how good they feel on pavement and that’s about it.

The other “editorial decision” I made was about the number of leaves in the shot.  I placed a single leaf on the sidewalk, on grass, but those photos didn’t make me smile like this one did.  I’ve noticed that since last winter, the elements in the header shots have increased in number.  How perfect!  This is the Season of Harvest–like the things in the photos, may Abundance rule!

And speaking of all things orange, I did bring those bigger leaves home to put by the little marigolds and mums I have on my balcony.  I might’ve bought branches of preserved leaves from any market, but I like the idea that these will go right into the compost bin with the flowers and real pumpkin that make up my seasonal “decor.”

And there’s a better than average chance that I’ll lace up those walking shoes again tomorrow and pick up a few more leaves.  And maybe when I get home, I’ll whip up some Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin while I’m on this Autumnal roll!

My “must haves” come Fall are one medium-sized slightly flattened pumpkin and orange or red mums.  What are your Fall decor favorites?