Saturday, October 29, 2011

In addition to...

My previous writings, I'll be including blogs about food, cooking, and those moments of culinary creativity.

For example, this one...

My mom used to have these huge red raspberry bushes in her garden. These bushes grew LOTS of berries. Mom always had enough berries for a pie or two, plus berries to freeze for future pies.
One year, Mom had so many berries, my Uncle Tom said he'd take some. A few weeks later, he returns with these bottles of red liquid. He said he made raspberry vinegar, then gave them to us. We didn't know what to do with it, since our family wasn't so culinary at the time. So the bottles were in the cupboard waiting to be used.
When I lived off campus at UW-RF, I was offered to take the raspberry vinegar bottles. One time, I was making some homemade barbecue sauce, but ran out of I ended up using the raspberry vinegar. It was sweeter than I was used to, but good. After that, I did get more courageous with the raspberry vinegar.

The last gift Uncle Tom gave me was a large blue bottle of his raspberry vinegar. I never realized it until after his death that he passed his culinary creativity onto me with that bottle.

When he passed away, all I wanted was four recipes from him. One of them was the raspberry vinegar recipe. My cousin, Meighan, sent me the recipe. I have made raspberry vinegar plus adapted the recipe to make cranberry-orange vinegar, pomegranate vinegar, blood orange vinegar, strawberry vinegar and blueberry vinegar. Black raspberry vinegar is still eluding me, but all this creativity is in my uncle's name.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gay bars and vegetarian restaurants...

I'm slowly becoming convinced that there are a lot of similarities between gay bars and vegetarian restaurants. Both businesses specialize in catering to a specific group within a society where those who a part of that smaller community can feel they are not alone. And both seem like they are becoming nostalgia in our current society. Let's face it. With vegetarian restaurants, there still is that connotation of out-of-date hippie/Grateful Dead fans who preach out of date 60's rhetoric while serving you pan seared tofu and wheat grass drinks. Truth is, vegetarianism has branched into many different forms, and who knows if anyone uses labels like "ovo-lacto" before vegetarian anymore. Gay bars seem to become eerily similar. There's still that connotation of the barely lit whole in the wall place where guys and girls (and all combinations in between) come to meet, drink and possibly hook up. But the truth is, being gay has also branched into many different forms. There are many different variations of gay and lesbian now than there was 20-30 years ago. And our community has included the notion of a fluid identity, which further introduces complexity within the identity.

But where each of these places offers someplace reclusive for the members of its identity, there are also members of the mainstream who filter in with curiosity of the alternative. How many times have we seen/experienced straight people going into gay bars for that "need to walk on the wildside" or devoted carnivores going into a vegetarian restaurant to "be healthy for dinner"? As alienating as that can be, I strangely like the idea of the mainstream experiencing that peak into a subgroup, if for no other reason, for the mainstream to experience what it's like to not quite fit in. As a gay man and a vegetarian, I've had plenty of experiences where I don't fit in as either in our society. And that situation reversal has been and continues to be refreshing.

I fantasize about opening a gay vegetarian restaurant/coffee house. Picture it. A very classy yet earthy place where the food is all sensual and fantastic. The kitchen staff would be more fluent in soy products that any other restaurant that has a token pasta primavera as their token vegetarian item. And quiche! There would always be one on the daily menu! All those wanna be chefs who pride themselves to be Alice Waters devotees would get a chance to show their stuff - buying and cooking with local produce! But mostly, there would be an overwhelming feeling of GLBT and vegetarian acceptance. Oh yeah, almost music. Gotta have an acoustic guitar or a jazz piano in the corner.

That's all I can think of for now.


Temples of our Familiar

Am I the only one who has a favorite place where we are transported back to a place and time where you felt a connection to? Or a place where you had an incredible experience that compels you to return to it...almost like a pilgrimage? Or someplace special where your memories foster and your muses revel in inspiration?

If you are like me, who have these temples of our familiar, copy and paste this passage, then start a list below, then share this list with others.

1. Bylery's grocery store.

When I was going to college at UW-RF, my friends and I would go on what we called Target runs. Because there was no department store in River Falls, Hudson, or any accompanying town, we would drive to Woodbury, MN, to the Target store and stock up on household stuff, like shampoo, cleaning supplies, toilet paper at the Target Store just off White Bear Ave. For lunch, we would go to the restaurant at Bylery's grocery store. Since I was from a small town, the idea of a grocery store with its own restaurant was incredible. And I'd never seen an upscale grocery store before. There was a chandelier over the frozen foods section. I never saw sushi until I was in the grocery store. Lee Ann Chin's. An unbelievable deli. Their own Wild Rice Soup! Fresh lobster in the tank at the seafood bar. I could go on an on, because I only heard about their sampler days, where some friends of mine have gone there for lunch and left stuffed! But I remember the coffee the most. The coffee they served in their restaurant is available in the store. And it was incredible.

The grocery store is still there. The restaurant is still there. The coffee is still available. The chandelier is gone, though. Mind you, there are more grocery stores with upscale features that are very similar. I can go to Whole Foods in Madison and it mostly satisfies. But when I'm visiting friends up north...I find an excuse to go to Bylery's and stock up on decaf Restauant Blend coffee.


Another temple of my familiar

October 5-7, 2007. My 10 year class reunion @ Beloit College.

I never understood the whole reunion thing. Let's face it. I vowed on my high school graduation I'd never go to any of those reunions. After all, why go back to someplace you wished you never wanted to be in the first place, let alone someplace where you never felt like you belonged? There's no interest revisiting who I was in high school.

Which makes going back to Beloit College interesting. I went there as a part-time student for 2 years and as a full time student for 2 years until graduation finally happened. When I was there, I just wanted to get a degree. What I did was prove a lot of things to myself. I discovered my self worth, who I am, how I feel about life and my ability to change whatever happens in it. My college career was a new lease on life, and I went for it. The end result...a BA in Theatre/Communications (Radio/TV emphasis) and a self designed minor in Gay and Lesbian Studies. You saw that right...and I've been told from one of the members of the Alumni office that I'm the first to graduate with that minor. Talk about my own personal claim to LGBT history!

At the reunion, I visited some of the old buildings I had classes in, not to mention the library, the commons area and places I was with friends and colleagues. It was like I never left. For the first time in ten years, I felt that "new lease on life" feeling again. Walking around on the was as if I never left. Meeting the other alums was a trip...who'd think that talking with other folks who experienced life on this same campus would come back in that swirling mood of reflection and rejuvenation all over again?

When I drove home Sunday morning from the alumni breakfast in the commons area, that's when I got it. We go back to reunions wanting to visit a temple of our familiar. We know we can never physically go back to a place and time where we experienced a special connection (for lack of a better word) in our life, but we can go back to it in our current place and time knowing the connection lives inside us, ready to awaken when we step on that physical place.


Happy Samhain!

I've been studying Paganism for the past couple months. Mostly because I'm coming to terms with the fact that I've probably been a Pagan but not fully realized it until recently.

I've always liked this time of year. Halloween turning to Thanksgiving turning to Christmas. This whole part of the year never really felt like the year about to close more than a new year ready to start. It sounds weird to say out loud and to write, but it's true. Especially when the sun light hours are decreasing and there's more dusk and night. To me, there seems more life energy turning inward now that makes everything seem...magickal? Or maybe all those years of school and college made fall seem like the start of the year, huh?

I never really believed all the devil business. Growing up, it always seemed like a way adults made children mind them. Or at least in my house. Halloween should be a celebration of the first harvest. Thanksgiving should be a celebration of the final harvest. The Celtic festival of Samhain should be a time to remember family and friends who have passed away before you. If I were to actively celebrate it, I'd like to have honored my grandma and my uncle. My grandma was a farmer's wife and my uncle really loved gardening - especially vegetables. Every summer, he'd plant around 200 tomato plants and he'd can all of them into sauce or whole tomatoes. There wasn't a time where us kids weren't somewhere pulling weeds out of the gardens.

Before I stray too much, there is a point (believe it or not). I've always been aware of Earth as a vital living evergy that gives back what it takes in. The seasons, the all has a powerful connection. When I think of past Halloweens, Thanksgivings, and Christmases, I'm all too aware of how that connection is still intact and how much we carry on those traditions. In my studying of Pagan traditions and how many or all became Christianized, that connection remains...magickal.

With that in mind, I wish everyone a Happy Samhain. Honor the spirit of someone who is no longer with you in this life. Carry on a tradition or two.

Blessed be.


to those whove ever wondered...

It was Spring of '86. The show at the time was Working, The Musical. I became friends with a guy who no longer is a friend by any stretch of the imagination. He opened up to me he was gay, and I eventually did, albeit quietly, come out. The theatre department had already decided I was, which explains the speculation and avoidance, but my coming out happened then.

At the same time, there was a LGBT group forming on campus. It was extremely brave at the time, but Tom did it. That group became the folks I still consider friends, for better or worse. I could be myself with them, say what I wanted to say, be what I wanted to be...although I was still very cautious and worried about what people thought of me. But they all let me get over it eventually.

I was fortunate to be a part of the LGBT community at Beloit College when I returned to college. I was so amazed by the students who were so confident then, knowing who they were without shame or fear. I wish I had a drop of that when I came out at UW-RF.

I was a little disappointed by coming out. Everyone talked about it like a parade with streamers and confetti would happen when I announced it. Instead, there was a peace that took over my personage that I never felt since I was in grade school.

That's how I've continued to live my life. It is what is, so mote it be.

Happy Coming Out Day!

By the way, I still feel that I'd be the only one who'd end up singing the hook like to Notorious B.I.G's Mo Money, Mo Problems while everyone at the gay bar is singing Diana Ross' I'm Coming Out.



This is my New Year's Resolution for start a blog. Every once in a while, I need to share what's on my mind. This will be sporatic, but hopefully something you and I can share. I'll look forward to hearing what you have to say, but play nice. Sarcasm will not be tolerated.