Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Holy Mole & Oh My Gado Gado


OMG times infinity this has been a rough two weeks.  Ugh!  Here is the story and if you read to the end, you'll be rewarded with three delightful and delicious new recipes.  But first...

It all started when I went for an MRI and they said "We're going to just stick a really long needle into your shoulder joint and then...".  Excuse me?  I am afraid to have my teeth cleaned, because after months of torturous PT and oh yeah, a truck hitting me, I can't allow people to inflict pain on me, let alone have a long needle injected into the most inflamed and tender joint in my body.  Okay, it's not really the most inflamed and tender joint, but it's close.  It's the second.  

Inside I start panicking but don't tell them.  I say, "Just to clarify, there's no iodine, right?  I'm allergic to that." They say, "Oh yes, there's iodine.  What will happen?"  "Maybe anaphylactic shock," I say.  "Well we will monitor you closely and be prepared for that".

Now I am panicking more and I don't have to tell them because I am trembling and crying.  I say, "Well, I have PTSD so I don't think it's such a good idea if I experiment with anaphylactic shock.  I'm going home. Thanks though."  They say, "Are you sure?".  

Somehow I dress and walk out to the parking lot.  I did make time to call the police to inform them that a non-handicapped car was parked in a handicapped spot.  That's sort of a new hobby.  If you ever get a ticket for that, it was probably me who reported you.  

Needless to say, I came home and applied the 1001 antidotes to being triggered.  I have a whole pantheon of tricks and skills and whatnot to keep my autonomic nervous system functioning at some sort of reasonable level.  

Too bad that a couple days later a car starts swerving into my lane and almost my car.  I see them coming at me and I almost black out.  I'm pretty sure I could have powered a small appliance with all the adrenaline pumping through my system.  Now I am in full blown shock.  Darn it.  But I have to drive home.  In fact I feel I must bee-line it home where I will be safe.  I start applying the antidotes and they are not working so well.  System overload.  I apply more at home.  It seems okay.  But I can tell there's a revved up engine still going for days in the center of my brain.  My hippocampus decaying from all the cortisol.  

The thing about trauma is I know the anatomy and physiology of it, I understand how it happens from a neuroscience point of view, from the Buddhist point of view, from the somatic psychology point of view.  And still it happens.  Because just like enlightenment, trauma isn't a point of view, it isn't cognitive, it is beyond concept.  

Anyway, a couple days later I have a verbal altercation with a man in a grocery store parking lot.  He is driving the wrong way down a one-way area and nearly hits me as I'm backing out of my space.  Good grief.  I stop my car so he can't pass.  I roll down the window and say, "You're driving the wrong way down a one-way path."  He says, "I know, but I want to park there."  I say, "I don't care.  Back up and drive around the right way.  I'm not moving."  He ends up calling me a fucking fuckhead, which really I thought "Is that the best you can come up with?"

A few moments later on my way to my friend's I say to myself, "Viejita,".  Perhaps I should let you know that is what I call myself inside my head.  It is a throwback from when I was the pastry chef at Mateo's.  The three Mexican primos gave me the nickname and it just stuck.  It means little old lady.  So I said, "Viejita, perhaps that was not the best way to practice the path of nonviolence."  So true.  Not very skillful.  

So I am confessing this whole story because I want to give a small glimpse into the world of unresolved trauma and PTSD.  I think it causes a lot of violence in the world.  I am a fairly resourced and mindful person and it can bring me to my knees.  Well, not really, but you know what I mean.  

Things did not get so much better.  Even though I have my pantheon of tricks and they really work and I am healing, it is a long and not comfortable road.  And setbacks are part of the recovery process.  Yesterday and today I arrived at appointments in tears from driving and being scared.  I was afraid to go get groceries because of the bright lights and loud music.  Ugh.  

I want to live in an organic safehouse where we get massage every day and there is no music and the lights are soft and the food is from the garden.  And there are cute dogs and cats and bunnies emanating fields of positive limbic resonance.  

Not possible!  Shantideva said if you want to walk around on a soft earth, rather than cover the whole earth in leather, better to just cover the soles of your own feet.  That is what practice is.  That is what the pantheon is about.

Anyhoo, because some of you are dealing with the same and I want you to know you are not alone and because some of you don't have a personal experience with the same and I want you to know what it's like, i have compiled a list of symptoms that I have been experiencing the last several days (this used to be ongoing every day all the time, phew!).  If you would like to know more about healing from trauma, anxiety, shock, and stress, please stay tuned to the blog.  

I must say briefly, that I bow in gratitude to my teachers, Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Anam Thubten Rinpoche, who have given me such wonderful wisdom about how to help myself in these tough times.  Here is one pith instruction from Anam Thubten Rinpoche: Chill out and witness. 

And let's all remember to slow down a bit on the road and drive on the right side of the path, please!


  • Sensitive to lights and sounds
  • Easily startled, like jumping when my laptop cord moved, thinking it was a snake.  Really.
  • Emotionally labile
  • Easily irritated, angered
  • Dizzy and nauseous
  • Hard to breathe
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Feel faint
  • Fear of driving, fear of crossing the street
  • Migraines
  • Loss of appetite; hard to digest food
  • Social withdrawal
  • Afraid of public places
  • Wish to die in my sleep (longing for an escape)
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Dry mouth, extreme thirst
  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Helpless, hopeless, worthless
  • Lack of attention, focus
  • Memory problems
  • Flashbacks
  • Fatigue, exhaustion
  • Nihilistic point of view, nothing matters
  • Minor tetony 
  • Frequent and urgent need to pee
When you’re on self-prescribed house arrest for the weekend like I am, why not make Holy Molé?  As in, Holy Molé this is quite an experience I’m having.  Or if you like, Oh My Gado Gado this is intense.  And in the end, you can eat your own suffering by making a big jar of Dukkha. 

I call this the solace of food.  Some people are emotional eaters, but I am an emotional cooker.  For almost my whole life, my mind has found refuge in writing recipes, reading cookbooks, planning menus, and cooking good food. 

I dedicated this weekend to soothing my nerves and avoiding the road.  Spending time in the kitchen is good medicine.  And I hope you and your families will benefit!

I offer you these three recipes which are so easy and tasty – and they give me a chance to poke a little fun at my situation.  Plus, it’s great to have some seasoning sauces or spice mixes on hand in the summer.  Makes dinner on a hot evening a cinch – just grill up your favorite meats or veg, toss a big salad, and add some Holy Mole, Oh My Gado Gado, and even a sprinkling of good ol’ Dukkha.  (That’s the Sanskrit word for suffering.)  As with all my recipes, the ingredients are organic.

HOLY MOLE
Makes 1 ½ quarts

This is an adaptation of a recipe by David Lebovitz, one of my favorite pastry chefs.  You can follow his eponymous blog on life in Paris.  Use the sauce to top burgers, tacos, carnitas, or enchiladas.  You could also mix it with sour cream for a nacho dip.  YUM!

7 dried guajillo peppers
¾ cup raisins
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 ¼ cups water or chile soaking liquid
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
¾ cup toasted whole raw almonds
1 14 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with juices
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
¾ tsp oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground anise
1 tsp ancho chile powder
2 tsp kosher salt
Black pepper to taste
1/8 to ¼ tsp cayenne
1 tsp honey

1.        Remove stems from chiles, cut open lengthwise with scissors, scrape out seeds.  Put chiles in soup pot and cover with water.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  To keep them submerged, put a small plate or small pot lid on top of them.  Turn off heat and allow them to sit in liquid.
2.       Put raisins and chocolate in blender or food processor.  Add 1 cup of warm chile soaking liquid.  Allow to sit for 1 minute then blitz until smooth.  Hint: you may want to cover the machine with a kitchen towel to avoid any splattering.
3.       Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a skillet on medium.  Add the onion and cook until totally translucent, about 13 minutes.  Stir frequently.
4.      With tongs, transfer the chiles to the blender or processor.  Add the onion and the remaining ingredients.  Pulse at first then let the machine run until the mixture is very smooth. 
5.       Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. 
6.      Use a canning funnel to put in glass jars.  Let cool on counter a bit then transfer to fridge.  Cover when cool.  You can also freeze the mixture until ready to use.  Or it makes a wonderful hostess or thank you gift.  Buen provecho! 


OH MY GADO GADO!
6 servings

This is a super tasty Indonesian sauce that is handy to have in the fridge.  It goes well on top of veggies, rice, pasta, grilled meats, or you can thin for a salad dressing – garnish with cilantro and chopped peanuts if you like.  You will love the light and tangy flavor.  Make a big jar and use it all week to perk up your meals and your mood.  ENJOY!

1 cup creamy peanut butter or almond butter (natural kind, no added sugar or oils)
4 Tbsp ginger root, minced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup hot water – or more if you like
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
Salt to taste
Cayenne to taste

1.        Combine all ingredients in a wide mouth quart canning jar
2.       Blitz with immersion blender
3.       Taste and re-season as you like
4.      Keep in fridge for 7-10 days

Dukkha Spice Mix
One 8 ounce jar

Dukkha is an Egyptian spice blend and also the Sanskrit word for suffering.  You can enjoy the mix sprinkled over salads or as a topping for artisan bread spread with goat cheese and drizzled with olive oil – the possibilities are endless.  Have fun exploring these ancient flavors!  You can quadruple the spice recipe to keep some handy for enlivening all sorts of dishes.  Or put in cute little jars for thank you gifts.  Yum!

¼ cup roasted pistachios or pumpkin seeds
¼ cup roasted almonds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp black pepper
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Salt

1.    Toast the sesame seeds, coriander, cumin, and fennel in a dry skillet over medium heat until quite fragrant.  Careful not to burn!
2.       Let cool slightly.
3.    Put all the ingredients into bowl of food processor.  Blitz or pulse until coarse.  Do not overmix or it will become a paste.

4.      Taste and add more salt or pepper if you like.  Keep in a jar in the fridge.  


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Measure Up

Here I am in Summerland with a couple of friends.  As soon as Santa Barbara County gets an AlterG I am moving there to start an inspirational tee shirt and tattoo business.  I will call it Ani TNT.  Actually, now that I write that it sounds like a monster truck mashing festival.  Do they still have those?  Remember that guy's voice?  It's kind of fun to say it like him.  Monster truck mashers.

What in the world is the purpose of mashing big trucks with even bigger trucks?  Which brings me to my main point.  And something I have been pondering the last few weeks, months, decades, lifetimes.  What does it mean to be human and how can we fulfill our purpose?  Surely it doesn't have anything to do with monster truck mashing.

What is the measure of our days and thus our lives?  When we get in bed at night and reflect on the day, how do we feel?

When I was about 10 years old, I remember feeling so jealous of animals who seemed to know how to be themselves without any confusion.  Especially I was fond of the lioness, who on black and white public television, looked so comfortable in her skin.  In contrast, it seemed a bit complex to be a human. What is it we are supposed to be doing?

As I've gotten stronger and more capable this past year, I find myself easily caught up in the sense of confidence that comes from accomplishing things.  Oh wow! I unloaded the dishwasher AND took a shower AND grocery shopped AND did PT all in one day.  Hooray.  Which is true when one is healing and yet I feel how that kind of success can be strangely addictive, a confidence built on how many tasks and errands and projects that as a human being I did in one day.

Some small version of monster truck mashing, isn't it?

What then is a meaningful way to measure the day?  Taking a cue from Buddha, I realize that when I look back at the day, or when I set my intention in the morning, the best measure of being a complete human being is:

1. How often was I in the present moment?

2.  How many other sentient beings did I help, either directly or indirectly?

Ta da! This is how a human gets comfortable in her own skin.  How often was my mind united with my body in whatever I was doing or not doing in the moment?  That is something to ask ourselves.  Because what else do we have except a continuum of present moments.  The mind easily flits away to the past, the future, the other side of the world.

What if we began to try on purpose to measure our days by how often we were paying attention to the present moment without thinking, analyzing, strategizing, judging, planning, obsessing.  Just being in our bodies and aware.  Hmmm.

And then add to that, how many beings did I help?

Maybe it's just me but I feel a little excited about this paradigm.  How often was I in the present moment and how many other beings did I help today?  It's fun right?  It lets you off the hook for accomplishing all the things on your to do list.  They become fluff - which they actually are.

Because after 14 billion years of evolution, surely we can come up with something better than errands, paying the bills, organizing the house, and mashing trucks.  Not that those things aren't necessary, but let's not define ourselves with that.  Let's not feel successful because we got the most done.

Let's pat each other on the back for just being and helping.  That's enough.  And it's a lot.

See you in Summerland!