Saturday, April 25, 2015

Butterscotch candies and a beautifully hardbound book

Taste: sweet peas and strawberries
Sight: a beautifully bound hardback book with forest green cover and black leaf and a Baskerville font
Sound: the far off wind; puttering; plodding; the crinkle of a hard candy wrapper; pouring - a carton of cashew milk, a kettle into a coffee pot
Smell: dying, drying lilacs
Touch: wound and bound in the sheets; a morning meditation
Extra: perihelion, aphelion
Grateful for: the senses; time to putter; a great variety

Monday, April 20, 2015

The effect of lilacs, apple cider and a long walk on her being

Taste: oak-aged apple cider; orange juice, apple juice
Sight: lilac bouquets and classical paintings thereof; farmer's market potatoes and sweet potatoes
Sound: bird song; trumpet
Smell: lemongrass; lilac, always, the lilac
Touch: a dripping nose; an aching back
Extra: home-scene - your memory of youth; botany - identifying local plants; the Summitview branch of the Yakima Public Library and its copy of Animal Liberation by Peter Singer in 1988;
 "But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” ― George Eliot, Middlemarch 
  Grateful for: farmer's markets, walking trails, spring days, feminists and activists

Monday, April 13, 2015

It's time to get serious about joy, fulfillment and lost dogs

Taste: blood orange mimosas
Sight: arresting Gus-Gus the most beautiful cat in the world; frothy and deep iron red; Anarchy, F-Bomb and Shame - lipstick shades
Sound: euonymus, deodara
Smell: sweet like a magic shop, a place of polished stones and gemstones
Extra: what he most wants to do — yard work;
"That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil -- widening the skirts of lights and making the struggle with darkness narrower." — Middlemarch, George Eliot

"It’s time to get serious about joy and fulfillment, work on our books, songs, dances, gardens." — Anne Lamott
Grateful for: meliorism - the belief that through small, generous actions the world can be made better; effective altruism

Saturday, April 11, 2015

She uses her novelistic powers and looks forward and back

Taste: munching spinach and choking on balsamic at midnight
Sight: Black Tulip Magnolia; purple splotched hands; speckled brown stained hands
Sound: the dishwasher imitates crickets transporting us to a warm summer night in the South; licking, biting, gnawing - tending wounds and washing
Touch: itchy watery eyes; hold the book, a tailsman, up to your heart and let it work its magic; folding a piece of black velvet over and over, end over end
Smell: the man smells of Lysol at the bus stop; fresh wood steps; stain; what last you cooked - popcorn, roast beets, tofu scramble; codfish and open wounds
Extra: cruising Iceland and the South Pacific; worry, concern, fear; being physically still with your mind swimming in sand; "her novelistic powers"; Afangar: to stop and look forward and back; animal fat is the new tobacco; word of the day: ramble as a verb-to have a ramble
Grateful for: a good doctor

Monday, April 6, 2015

Portents and omens: Losses, gains and imminent pains

Taste: mimosa; turmeric orange carrot juice; apricot-pecan pie
Sight: a dead crow; sunlit yellow daffodils, tulips; a turmeric root; a ginger root; a garlic clove; signs of frailty; a limp of pain
Sound: parent's laughter
Touch: a bloated belly, a heavy chest; bony, narrow shoulders
Smell: fresh turmeric; burnt asparagus
Extra: foreboding and how quickly one may find distraction in the future, in foreboding;
 "I now feel at peace with each creature small. So fair and immense is this vault over all" — Northern Lights by Einar Benediktsson  
"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..." — Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass, 1855
Grateful for: mother, father and their good opinion of me, care and concern; she toddled, doomed, across the lawn for months and we were grateful, concerned but unseeing, for this dogged movement

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Save the Puffins, Minke, and Arctic Foxes: Vegan in Reykjavik

OK, let's get the very "not vegan in Reykjavik" part out of the way. On the streets, people are wearing fur (Oh lord, not those darling Icelandic foxes!). It may not be the locals, who seem impervious (adapted) to the cold, but the tourists have definitely taken the opportunity to adorn themselves in dead animals as though they had somehow entered an alternate universe where this were acceptable. Yuck. There are also reindeer hides for sale in the shop window. Yuck. And the restaurants, bizarrely, are serving up tourism animals to eat. You can either go watch the puffins and Minke whale or you can eat them with blueberry sauce. Weird, and yuck. Wholly incompatible and unsustainable.

That said, Iceland is a beautiful wild place powered by geothermal energy and lined with walking trails. There's an underlying eco-consciousness and dearth of fast food chains and take-away cups. The people stroll languidly through the cold and pleasantly gesture if you ask for help, but mostly expect you share their independence — no bloated safety messages or instructions given.

Pic courtesy @Werner

And here, in Reykjavik, people know what the word vegan means and you'll find it on menus.

We went to see the Northern Lights (as most of the tourists we talked to did, that, and the solar eclipse). A quest for Aurora Borealis, a trip centered on natural wonders and beauty, seems a fine purpose and we found pleasant company. We stayed mostly in Reykjavik and were there just four nights (so my observations are limited). We thought we'd be eating mostly what we could scavenge from mini-marts, but Happy Cow served us well as usual and it turned into a foodie vacation. We mitigated the effects by walking all over town.

As soon as we got off the plane, we had a fresh Joe & the Juice in the airport, not sure when we'd see our next fresh vegetable. As it turns out, Icelanders like their fresh juices and soy lattes are also ubiquitous.

Inside, Keflavík International Airport is one of the prettiest airports. It's well lit and decorated with art and literature. Outside, it is surrounded by barren landscape. If it's your first time in Iceland, you may gasp, "What...have....I...done?".

However, it's a short drive to interesting lava rock and moss-coated lands and the beautiful mountains soon rise above the landscape (if it is not a cloudy day).

In Reykjavik, we immediately went down the main touristy street Laugevegur with its alluring window-shopping (reindeer hides aside) to scout out some of the Happy Cow recommendations. 

There are not any vegan restaurants, but some veg-friendly ones. We first scouted the vegetarian Cafe Babalu and were immediately lured inside by the promise of vegan carrot cake. It's a wonderful cozy, bookish geek-friendly cafe. We had the hearty veggie chili served with a more than generous side of corn chips and that very good carrot cake. This cafe has the best bathroom in Reyjakvik (for Star Wars fans) and more seating upstairs if the downstairs looks full.

Vegan Toast
(That's the veggie burger in the background.)
Down the road, we also found a place that offered sweet and savory crepes with a vegan version made of spelt: pricey, if you make lots of additions, but very filling. You can follow this road straight to Hallgrímskirkja to see the landmark Cathedral.

Later, we found Ecstasy's Heart-Garden, a restaurant operated by students of Sri Chinmoy. We felt right at home here because we like Silence-Heart-Nest in Fremont, Seattle and one of the staff gave us a brochure of an international directory of their locations. The restaurant had a rotating menu of one soup and one entrée served daily (some vegan), posted a week in advance, and a few vegan sweets available.

Further down the road, we tried The Laundromat Cafe which was a fun, busy, bright pub-type environment with friendly-staff. The only vegan item (other than those fresh juices) was an item under This & That called "Vegan Toast." It was unusual and wonderfully so (and, thus, a very Icelandic experience). Vegan toast turned out to be a grilled aubergine open-face sandwich topped with wasabi sauce, toasted cashews and beetroot chutney. Magically, it all comes together nicely for a unique and filling meal.

Although the locations were convenient, we weren't as excited to try Gló at first because we wondered if it would be too chain-like. We were wrong to hesitate. Then, when we finally went inside for a look, it appeared very fancy (like the kind of place that serves expensive raw food in small portions). Wrong again. Gló turned out to be a fantastic place to get huge veggie wraps, an assortment of fantastic looking salads and thick fruit and veggie-packed smoothies.

This is Iceland's version of fast food? Wow!
Done right! It's like the restaurant version of your co-op deli or Whole Foods' salad bar. Please bring one of these to my town.

We also had culinary success eating at the touristy Cafe Loki with a view of Hallgrímskirkja. This was one of the few meat-centric places we ate. It advertised traditional Icelandic food (of the meaty/fishy variety), but had a veggie plate. It was great: rye bread, a quinoa salad and garden salad. The server figured out that we were vegan without us saying and served us the bread unbuttered. Very nice.

So, the worst part of a vegan vacation in Iceland is that you return and people ask if you tried the fermented shark or sheep's head. Egads, and horrors! But, while not a vegan tourism mecca, it was no problem being vegan in Reykjavik. It's a gorgeous, walkable (do wear many layers), fascinating city with plenty of vegan treats. I returned with newfound appreciation for aubergine, spelt, quinoa and rye and juiced with abandon in Icelandic fashion. As the future is vegan, no doubt they'll soon have a vegan restaurant and someday only faux fur or Vaute coats on the streets. Meanwhile, vegans, you will certainly not suffer on a no-suffering diet in Reykjavik.

Friday, April 3, 2015

On the Earth's part we celebrate with all the animals

Taste: absinthe and Chambord - Unpleasant Dreams; Icelandic Moss; Icelandic birch; Icelandic blueberry; Icelandic crowberry - Empetrum nigrum
Sight: The Rainbow by Rúrí and The Jet Nest by Magnús Tómasson; grated tumeric root and orange fingers
Sound: "drowning in fudge" (not green smoothies?)
Touch: water slides
Smell: doughnuts; fish and iron
Extra: when the "good cancer" turns to bad; the unknown - a mild panic;
"There are many wonders in a cow's head" - Icelandic saying 
"on earth's part
all days start beautifully
patiently it revolves and revolves
with its trees
and oceans and lakes
deserts and volcanoes
the two of us and the rest of you and all the animals"
— Petur Gunnarsson, One
Grateful for: routine and rest; mothers and grandmothers who make Easter brunch; images of happy ducklings, lambs, ducks, rabbits, chicks, hens, turkey and sheep; people who talk of nutrition; the genre Gothic Western; books by Richard Brautigan; transporting music; poetry; murals and urban art; friends who will listen to you cry and offer to help; candles and incense and long stemmed wine glasses