Poetry in Life

Recipe Testers,

I want to write it just the way she said it to me. Her words were so pure and beautiful. I didn’t have a notepad so I’ll do my best to write exactly what she said without changing or embellishing anything:

My favorite flower of all is Midnight Jasmine

It is a white like no other white because of the way it smells.

Oh, I just love that smell.

Mom, you know how there are different kinds of whites?

Like there is the white of milk

Or the white of that curb right there

Or the white of a cloud

And I know clouds are made of water and evaporation and all of that

But doesn’t it seem like if a cloud was firm enough

And you fell into it

It would feel like Grace.

And sometimes the white of milk is so nice too, when you want that color white

---Melissa Madeline Brocke, April 7, 2009

So to all of you this may be nothing, but to me this is another one of my unexpected wonderful days of homeschooling my special needs child. I knew that it was supposed to turn cold and rain this afternoon and tonight but the morning was glorious and I thought we should squeeze in a walk before the rain came. And I also thought I should pick the roses from out front before the storms washed the over-blooming petals away. So I picked the roses in the front of the house and put them in the pitcher Ann gave me. (A feeling that made me just about as happy as the violets!)

Then Melissa and I left on our walk. She seems to do better at math after a little exercise. So we went on a walk and saw a hummingbird and she explained to me how hummingbirds aerodynamically are not supposed to be able to fly, but that in nature they work. She told me how fast their wings beat and we talked about hummingbirds for awhile. Then we ran into a woman who was gardening and planting flowers. She told Melissa if we walked by her house again at a different time, when the sun is at a different point in the sky that the sunflowers will have moved to face the sun. She said we could notice how they follow the sun. Then Melissa said “Are you wearing a Life is Good shirt?” And she said, “yes” and Melissa unzipped her jacket and said “Life is Good shirts are my favorite. I’m wearing one too!.” And the women answered that she had a “Life is Good” sign in her back yard because “Life is indeed Good” (
www.lifeisgood.com if you don’t know what I’m talking about. The shirts are my daughter’s uniforms. She has about 20 different ones and the book)

If some of you ever wonder about the huge sacrifice I made, when I gave up part of my career to homeschooling my artistic, brilliant, dyslexic daughter who has Asperger’s, you can see from this e-mail that I get pleasant and unexpected surprises from her daily. I can’t plan some of the stuff she comes up with and it truly amazes me. And I wouldn’t get this if I wasn’t with her and was only working. So in the beginning it may have seemed like a sacrifice and that my career was over, but in the end it was a gift.

I also have to thank you for the amazing responses you send to me. Some of them make me cry because they are so dear. They make me walk around all day with a smile on my face because I realize I live in this little “food world bubble” of friends and food that make me so happy. And then to top it off I’m connected to all of you and the happiness multiplies. So yes, there are crummy awful things going on in the world and you can look at any newspaper to read them. And I don’t ignore them. I face as many as I possibly can and try to solve whatever I can. But I also know that despite sadness, there is tons of happiness and you can find if you just take five seconds to look for it. Ever since I saw Slumdog Millionaire I’m grateful for indoor plumbing every single day of my life! You will be overflowing with gratitude when we realize how truly lucky we are just to have some of the things we rarely notice and often take for granted.

Everyone kept telling me over and over again that I should have a blog. Well, I do have a blog, but I wasn’t very good at it and I only managed to get 7 recipes on the blog. Also, I prefer e-mailing people directly. But now I just had someone show me a few tricks and figured out how to cut and paste the recipes without the measurements and formatting getting all messed up. So I’m back to diligently trying to put the recipes on the blog with tags for the titles after I e-mail them. Many of you explained that the benefit to the blog is so that everyone can share their comments and recipe suggestions. So I still don’t know how to “comment” on a blog, but I guess all you do is click on the “comments” below the entries and “comment.” So for those of you who have sent recipes you’d like to share with others, or made French fries in Duck Fat to go along with the homemade ketchup, or used the Vegetarian Chili as a base for scallops, or the pecan pieces were too big in the crab cakes or the Pimiento cheese trivia or whatever you want to share…you can do it in the “comments” section and then share them with the other recipe testers. Please keep responding to me because I love hearing your responses, and if you have a question on the blog make sure to e-mail me too so I can answer it. I hope this will help everyone and it will prevent me from sending out too many e-mails. Feel free to add your own favorite recipes or suggestions in the comments part of the blog. The point is to connect to people who want to share, without giving private e-mails or contact info.

So the blog for those of you who don’t have it is:
http://themailifiles.blogspot.com/ And I will try to put this entry on there shortly.

I’m also attaching Nirasha’s Orzo salad because Spring and Summer are the perfect time for this light and delightful salad. And then the No-Chop Salsa because I made that again on Saturday and it is so easy, fresh and delicious. I also made homemade tortillas chips. They are easy too and you don’t need to deep-fry them. You can actually just fill a saucepan only part of the way up with oil and kind of toss them around. Make sure the oil is nice and hot. I just buy corn tortillas at the grocery store or Costco. Cut them like a pizza into little triangles and then put them in the hot oil. I use the spider I bought at Indo-China to get them out of the oil. You could use any strainer, slotted spoon, or whatever you’d like to get them out. But the Asian spiders with the wooden handles are terrific for all fried foods. Both the No-Chop Salsa and the Orzo Salad are on the blog. I’m attaching the “Salsa that Scores” that didn’t make it into Football Food because it was too complicated. But for those of you who want to blacken the tomatoes and chilies, this is a terrific quemada salsa. (literally meaning burnt salsa) And I’m attaching the Vegetarian Chili for those of you who wanted it as a separate attachment and not in the body of an e-mail.

Last night I had an inquiry about the heirloom tomatoes I buy in the summer from Dave Palmer. The names of the tomatoes are like poetry. I know I have a picture of them somewhere and I’ll try to find it an attach it. I buy both the large heirlooms (green zebra, Cherokee purple, pineapple, etc.) but I also buy the cherry tomatoes that are truly like candy and have such lovely names. So since we started with Melissa’s accidental poem about the color white, I’ll end with the names of the heirloom cherry tomatoes which also sound to me like their own little poem.

Isis Candy
Sweet Baby Girl
Black Cherry
Sun Gold
Snow White

Jason just called and I need to meet him for dinner. I’m taking a break after cooking for three weeks straight without eating out. We’re headed to Soup Plantation. It is rainy and cold out now. This wonderful rain will be terrific for planting in a few days! And rain just means more flowers.



PS And Melissa’s favorite flower’s actual name is Night Blooming Jasmine. She just called it Midnight Jasmine. She changes the names of things all the time, but I often like the names she makes up!


Anonymous said…
Hi Maili
Always love to read your receipes of food and life. Thanks for sharing as always - looking forward to seeing you in a couple weeks.
Amie said…
Hello Maili,

I really enjoyed this story. You had a beautiful day and I am really looking forward to these gems when I start homeschooling my son in the fall. That was a lovely poem and it strikes me as a keeper...framed along with a pressed Jasmine! I also loved the names of the tomatoes. The names are interesting and are their own poetry for sure!

I obviously don't have any Panch Puran yet...but when I mentioned chili in the house, the kids said they wanted some and that I have not made it in a while. So, on this perfect, chilly day, I made some for this evening. I was going to make the vegetarian type, but decided to give ground Kosher white meat turkey another chance. I generally do not love it, but wanted to give it chance again since it's healthy. I'll let you know how it tastes. I did buy the Trader Joe's organic garbanzo beans though and added Canellini beans as well. The other ingredients I used were: onion, garlic, sea salt, fresh-ground pepper, dried chili flakes, corriander, cayenne pepper, chilli powder, curry powder, 2 roma tomatoes, tomato sauce, whole cumin seeds, and a pinch of sugar. I am serving it with rice, salad, and one of our family's favorite hors d'oeuvres (served as a side with this meal). I marinate (for 10 minutes or longer...all day or whatever even) strips of sliced roasted red peppers (but you could use other fire-roasted veggies) and put them in a bowl with finely minced garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic, and raisins. I slice a Trader Joe's crusty seeded loaf in 1 1/2 or 2 inch slices and toast in the oven (I have rubbed with cut garlic and olive oil in the past but find that it's not necessary as there is enough flavor in the topping) and then I top the toasted bread with the veggie mixture. The sweet, tart, and garlic flavors are amazing. With that type of bread, it easily keeps for leftovers the next day. I sometimes serve this with spaghetti or soup, but thought that the sweetness of the raisins would be great next to the chili. I'll let you know how it tastes together.

Good for you for cooking dinner so many weeks in a row! Wow! I love cooking but loathe cleaning up, so I must admit it prevents me sometimes from cooking just because I want to go directly from a delicious dinner to playing right away! I was bummed when Fresh Choice closed their California locations...we loved that place. So now, we like to go to Soup Plantation once a week, too! Usually on Sunday morning for their breakfast!

Have a blessed Easter.

Amie said…
P.S. I again forgot to type portabella mushrooms for the chili.

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