Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Identity Revisited

I wrote Identity almost 4 years ago. After 4 years much has changed. I discovered what my sexual identity truly was after over 30 years of struggles. I discovered I had severe depression and anxiety disorders. I have come up with a label to describe how I do not fit in with the traditional gender roles. I am not as involved with the geek/nerd culture as I thought I would be, and I am fine with that. I have created a wonderful circle of friends that have become a great support to me. That circle keeps expanding. I left a job, was unemployed for 2 and a half years, and I am now reemployed in a rewarding field I am rediscovering. I am working to move into a new place with a more positive atmosphere.  

I am still an Uber-nerd/geek, but my attachment to superheroes in comic book form has lessened to a great degree. I still love them in merchandise, movies, TV and so on. I have worked hard to trim down my Television watching. I felt it got too out of hand. I thought I could plug myself into existing Portland Nerd/Geek community circles and no problem. It did not happen that way and I am glad. I have created a couple of circles of my own. Some are close and some are casual. I have made lifelong friends in so many people.

Even though, I have non-White and non-Christian heritages, and I have various disabilities, due to my Caucasian appearance I have had White privilege. That realization was hard to swallow with my experiences growing up in a Blue Collar family and living in a lower economic neighborhood. I have experienced sizeism, ableism, and classism. However, I can do things that my friends of color cannot. I do not have to worry about certain behaviors in public and how to conduct myself with the authorities. Is this right? No, it is not. It is however how things are. It is my duty as a human being to fight for equality and equal opportunity for all human beings.

I have come to embrace the rich multicultural, multiethnic, and multifaith upbringing I had. I come from a very diverse gene pool. The heritages I know I belong to are English, Ulster Scots (Scots Irish), German, French, Dutch, Swede, Norwegian, Italian, Dane, Middle Eastern Jew, European Jew, Chiricahua Apache, Choctaw, Blackfoot, Cherokee, Chippewa. Plus through cousins, aunts, and uncles there is Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Mexican, Welsh, and Puerto Rican. Knowing my family history there could be Irish, Scots, Spanish, Mexican, African-American, Welsh, Eastern European, and who knows what else. I also grew up near Mexican-American and Japanese-American communities in Southern California. I try to honor the cultures I do not come from, but not to misappropriate anything.

I learned I have severe depression and anxiety disorder. The depression has lessened to a great degree since I became employed again. The anxiety it seems stems from the various traumatic experiences I encountered as a child.   Between the many surgeries for 0 to 16, the physical and sexual child abuse, and more recently the domestic abused I suffered, it is no surprise that my fight or flight responses are on the wonky side. I am seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist to get these issues under control.

I left the USPS after nine years. I was not happy and had not been from the beginning. It was the last vestige of my old life with Barbara. After two and a half years, I found employment again. I had balked previously at this position. I was my Ex’s live-in in-home caregiver. I now work as an in-home caregiver at an adult foster home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is the most rewarding job I have ever had. It works well with my nurturing side. I get to cook for the residents, and lately that has been a good deal of improvised dishes. I get along with the residents; I have had some issues with a few co-workers. That happens from time to time.

One of the things, I learned in the last 4 years was about my sexuality. I always felt like I never fit in. My whole adult life I felt like an outsider, someone who just does not get things in the wider society. I chalked it up to my social ineptitude, my lack of peer interaction at a young age, my difficulty with social interaction due to my disabilities, my anxiety, my being different when it came to gender roles, and my traumas. Those may be contributing factors, but there was one I did not know. I have a very close friend who is Asexual. In order to understand and not make too many social faux pas with them, I did some serious research. Among the Asexual spectrum is Demi-sexual, someone who only feels sexual attraction with someone they are emotionally connected to.

That sounded like how I was and am. I never understood when guys would talk about celebrities or even random ladies they would like to have sex with. I thought, “They were pretty and I would like to get to know them, but not necessarily in the biblical sense.” Casual sex, one night stands, swinging and so on freaks me out. I am a very physically affectionate person, but there has only been sexual overtones with my significant others. I had people get the wrong idea with me. They would think that I was coming on to them when I was not. I am horrible at flirting, that has had disastrous results. When people have flirted with me I have been oblivious. I am not Aromantic; I am a hetero-romantic. When I am attracted, it has always been with women.

Discovering this was scary and exhilarating. It explained so much of my experiences. It was why I felt confused, even though it appeared I was cis-gendered hetero-normative. I came out to both my parents. Mom gets it kind of and Dad is trying. He does not really understand. In anticipation of this article, I came out en masse to my Facebook friends. There has been no negative backlash. Dad was a little afraid for me, publically labeling myself. Growing up in the McCarthy era means he is afraid of labels. It also does not help he was raised by two people who were half white Christian and half something else (one Jewish and one Native American) and taught not to present any outward differences. He is accepting of me, but worries for my safety.

Due to my not fitting in the typical binary gender roles dichotomy of the Western world, I began to look what the term Queer. Usually it means someone who does not fit into the binary gender appearance or identity dichotomy that pervades Western society. Nowhere does it include those who do not fit into gender roles. I identify as male and prefer for my personal style to use typical Western male gender specific apparel. It fits my personal esthetic. On the other hand, I do not fit the typical male in terms of gender roles. I am not all about competition and conquest. I am a sensitive, emotional, nurturing type. Most of those fit the more feminine ideal, not the masculine. I am artistic, feeling, and inquisitive. I am put off by impersonal types.

My idea is to put another identifier for those of us who identify with our gender of birth and its esthetic, but eschew the gender roles traditions with our particular gender. I propose the term Gender Role Queer. Part of the reason for this is it has become much more acceptable for women to follow the more masculine gender roles and still be feminine. However the opposite is still not true. Men who follow more feminine gender roles are typically ridiculed. The House Husband and Stay at Home Dad are gaining momentum. Any man who wants to take care of children other than his own is viewed with suspicion. Part of this is the false assumption that male sexuality is inherently predatory. Male nurses are also gaining momentum. Male nannies, male nursery school/ preschool to kindergarten teachers, and some male caregivers are greeted with suspicion by many folks of all genders.

Part of this suspicion is based on two fallacies: one, that male sexuality is inherently predatory, and two that women are inherently incapable of being sexually predatory. According to the statistics only 4% of all sexual offenders are non-male. Here is the problem. That is only including those caught. How many are not caught? How many victims believe female on male rape is not possible? How many Police Departments do the same? Male rape victims of both male and female perpetrators have an even less rate of reporting the crime than their female counterparts. It is the same with female on male child sex abuse. Any statistic is not going to reflect the true extent unless there is 100% reporting and conviction. With the recent news, how many male perpetrators get away scot free? Imagine then how many female perpetrators getaway if they are even worse at being reported, let alone convicted.

I am not trying to attack women, I am pointing out how the present gender dichotomy is broken. I am saying women are as much capable of heinous crimes that many in our society assume are only male based. Stereotypes, both seemingly positive and the obviously negative, harm society. They seem to protect those we should not. I believe in equality is every sense of the world. That means that no double standards period. We should never assume one group is inherently bad or good. Those kinds of ideas create so many problems. I have always identified as a male feminist, which involves seeing how institutionalized sexism harms all members of society. 

These two fallacies also feed into a very dangerous dichotomy, in which male equals aggressor and predator and female equals passive and prey. The truth is a predator can be anything from anywhere, so is the same with their targets. No group should be completely demonized or canonized. In many states sexual assault only occurs when the victim is penetrated. Therefore female on male or female on female assault not involving in penetration by a foreign object is not considered rape in those states.

As someone whose abusers were all female, I understand this social issue intimately. I suffered childhood physical and sexual abuse from females. I suffered at the hand of a female domestic abuser. I am proof that women are capable of these things. We need to stop this unhealthy suspicion of males who are nurturers. Until this suspicious is gone and people do not see something untoward when there is no such thing, the Gender Role Queer concept will be needed. Yes, I have been talking about the darker sides of humanity. I strive for equity of treatment for all. I have hope in our better natures, so we need to stop being suspicious based on gender, sexual preference, gender identity, religion, race, ethnicity or any other factor. This has been my journey and my not so humble opinion. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Most Heinous Fallacy

Three unrelated things occurred recently that affected me profoundly. The first was a video making its rounds. Momondo released a video called DNA Journey. This video shows how we are more alike than we think that our narrow ideas about ethnic purity and identity are not necessarily true. I have known I come from a very diverse gene pool. The heritages I know I belong to are English, Ulster Scots (Scots Irish), German, French, Dutch, Swede, Norwegian, Italian, Dane, Middle Eastern Jew, European Jew, Chiricahua Apache, Choctaw, Blackfoot, Cherokee, Chippewa. Plus through cousins, aunts, and uncles there is Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Mexican, Welsh, and Puerto Rican. Knowing my family history there could be Irish, Spanish, Mexican, African-American, Welsh, Eastern European, and who knows what else. The video showed an Iraqi who came out to have Jewish genetic markers. A “pure” Icelander discovered he had a more diverse genetic background.  We are so much more connected than we really think. The video includes two cousins that did not know they were related discovering each other in the room.

The second event was the sad sentencing of Brock Turner, a former swimmer for Stanford University. The judge, who sentenced Turner, was an alum of Stanford University. Many think he should have recused himself. This smells of White upper class privilege. Had Turner been non-Christian, non White, of lower economic means or anything other he would have received the maximum sentence. Once again the perpetrator was given more consideration than the victim, due to his superior social status. This stinks of two separate rules out there one for those of privilege and one for the rest of us. There has been a slate of sexual assault cases involving young white men of upper middle class or higher socioeconomic standing where there is more concern over the future of the perpetrators than that of their victims.

The third was the mass shooting in Orlando of a gay nightclub on June 12, 2016. Although many want to paint this incident as a religiously motivated incident, it appears to be one of self loathing. The Shooter based on some accounts was confused about his sexuality. He came from a culture that demonized homosexuality. No matter why it was still a hate crime. The reaction to the incident by the residents of Orlando was uplifting. Everyone came out to help, including holding a blood drive. Muslims, Christians, whites, straight, gay, and many others of all walks of life tried to help in this dark time.

There is a most heinous fallacy that pervades our society. That fallacy is we are more different than similar. Genetics like the DNA Journey proves otherwise. We have never been pure anything. We all are multiracial and multicultural even if we do not know it. Those who pull our cultural strings want us divided and fighting each other. We cannot allow there to be different rules based on race, faith, gender, economics, and so on. What message are we sending? As long as you are the right race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion and so on, you can do as you wish. That is serious male bovine defecation.

I come from a multiracial, multicultural, and multi-faith background as stated earlier. I do not see denying anyone a loving partner and the legal protections everyone else enjoys with regards to marriage as the right way of doing things. Extremists want us to fight; they win by controlling the narrative. ISIL/ISIS has attacked other Muslims, because they are heretics. I saw the same kind of extremism in evangelical Christianity as a young man. They decide who is true to their faith, based on their own biases. As long as nobody is hurting another we she just except them for who they are. Like the phrase goes, “United we stand, divided we fall.” The powers that be fear Unity and cling to division. We need to go to bat for are neighbors, even if we disagree in religion, politics, or way of life. People in glass houses should not be throwing stones. We are more the same than different. We want love, and to live to our best potential. To deny others the things we all need and desire because some notice difference is absurd. This has been My Not So Humble Opinion. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Milepost 5 on the Road to Wellness

December and January were tough months for me.  On January 29, 2106, I was weighed at my dietitian’s office. I ended up at 370 lbs. I struggled with dietary choices and keeping up my exercise regimen. Part of it was holiday indulgences. With my weight goal from a total weight loss of 50 lbs by January changed to 50 lbs total weight loss by April, things seemed more possible. My depression was also affecting my choices. Compared to a year ago it was still a marked improvement.

In January 2016, I did not eat as much fruit or vegetables, I also had a tooth pulled and had to lighten my physical excursion to minimal for almost a week. In February and March 2016, I increased my vegetables. I worked my best to add vegetables to every dish. With my daily yogurt, banana, and fruit smoothies I had fruit under wraps. To help with my digestive heath, I added chia seeds and flaxseeds to my smoothies.

I tried several new vegetables, in February 2016 (calabacitas/Mexican zucchini, and piquillo peppers) and in March 2016 (chayote/Latin American squash, and taro leaves). I chose Cuban style yellow rice over Puerto Rican Style. Puerto Rican yellow rice had rice, seasoning and annatto oil. Cuban yellow rice had garlic, onion, peas, and red bell peppers. I was choosing dishes with more vegetable matter than those without.

              Paiche fillet with corn & roasted poblanos

I have limited how much potato chips I eat. In January I made nachos and used pre-made chips instead of making my own. As a holiday gift I received some Omaha steaks. Those probably did not help. I did increase my seafood intake. In December 2015, I had my stocking stuffers (canned octopus, sardines, and oysters), tonnato sauce (tuna, anchovies, lemon juice, olive oil, and capers) with cucumber noodles, and my monthly sushi. In January 2016, I made California roll nachos and had my monthly sushi.

In February 2016, I started making bagels and lox (cold smoked salmon) sandwiches and added shrimp to my family’s 7 layer salad recipe. In March 2016, I made inarizushi with shrimp, avocados, and spicy Japanese mayo. In April 2016, mom, who was visiting, bought some paiche. It is an Amazonian freshwater fish. It is huge, meaty, and delicious. I made several dishes with it.

The end of March 2016 and the beginning of April 2016 were eventful for my health. I had tried to get a more consistent mental health care. I had two choices the county and Lutheran Community Services. The county for the initial mental health evaluations were daily but only a handful a day. They were also first come first serve. With my depression getting up early to get there was difficult. The depression was causing me to experience insomnia. With open ended appointments, I fell victim to procrastination. I do better when told to show up at a specific time and date. I decided to go with Lutheran Community Services.  

   Pan seared paiche with spicy avocado sauce and greens

The end of March 2016, I got my mental health evaluation. I finally got a diagnosis. I suffer from severe depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder. I am getting treatment. I am on a waiting list to see the clinician for pharmaceutical treatment. That is still better than what I had last year with no possibility of that kind of therapy. I have had tons of support from friends and acquaintances about my diagnoses and work to get treatment. I am currently looking to apply for disability in order to get out of my living situation. My depression, anxiety, and insomnia are making my job search difficult. I am not looking into permanent disability, just long enough to get me out of my situation and on the road to mental health.

At the end of 2015, I was encountering localized sourness on the left side of my chest. I had this happen in 2002. It turned out to be gynecomastia. This is the development of breast tissue in men. The first occurrence was due to medicine. I had another mammogram done in April 2016. I was clear of cancer. 1% of all breast cancer cases are men, so if you find a mass or have localized soreness, get it checked. I am very embarrassed by my gynecomastia. My ex was brutal in emasculating me about it. Now instead on being unilateral, it is bilateral, meaning I am no longer one sided. I would rather have my diagnosis than breast cancer.

In January 2016, I had my broken molar removed. I followed the directions to the letter and was able to avoid dry socket. The previous pulled tooth resulted in dry socket. I also had my problem wisdom tooth removed at the end of March 2016. I once again avoided dry socket like I did in January. It was not as painful as I had thought it would be. I think it having a cavity made it easier to remove. My jaw was sore and I had a dull ache for weeks. With my problem teeth removed, I should be doing better with eating. With the two problem teeth gone, I have any possible cavities left to deal with. My dental health is much better.

                         Puerto Rican pastelón de amarillos

I was supposed to see my dietician at the end of March 2016. She is no longer working for the hospital where her office was located when I saw her. I found out the day of the appointment. The hospital somehow did not inform me of the change that occurred two weeks earlier. This made me feel depressed. I backslid and ate three Hershey’s Whatchamacallits. The three candy bars in a sitting made me sick. I no longer can eat like I used to.

At the end of March, I was weighed by my primary care physician. I came in at 363 lbs. I was 13 lbs short of my yearly goal. Still I was able to lose and keep off 37 lbs. My goal weight for April 2017 continues to be 300 lbs. I had my ups and downs. I have had my lapses in following my dietary regimen lately. Overall, I have made to serious long lasting life choices. I am working on getting back to the better choices. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Kitchen Comeback Update 4

January 2016 ended with two Thai dishes. My second attempt at Thai peanut sauce was more successful. Adjustment is still needed, less red curry paste, more soy sauce, and more of the sweetener. The massaman curry was good, but again some adjustment needed there too. That I need to lower the amount of tamarind and lime juice just a tad.

                             Thai chicken massaman curry

In the beginning of February 2016, I made Tortilla Española, again. This time I used a smaller frying pan and half of the recipe. This worked out wonderfully. It looked and held together the way it was supposed to. I ate it with piquillo peppers, chorizo Español, and salchichon (Spanish salami). I had bought manchego cheese and Serrano ham, but I ate them the night before. I have been eating bagel and lox sandwiches with cream cheese onions, and capers in February and March of 2016.

                                          Tortilla Española

My work to increase the amount of vegetables in my food continues. I worked with calabacitas (Mexican zucchini) in February 2016. In March 2016, I made chayote squash and taro leaves. The calabacitas were great and the taro leaves were amazing. I do need to adjust the amount of lemon juice on the coconut milk braised taro leaves. The chayote was made into a great hash. The recipe called for eggs. I removed the eggs since this was a dinner side dish. The hash had chayote squash, recaito, tomatoes sauce and some seasoning. With my inarizushi I made a cucumber namasu salad using the Veggetti device.

                                        Indian saag paneer

In February 2016, I made two spinach dishes; Indian Saag Paneer (Indian curried spinach with paneer cheese) and a Greek inspired spinach egg bake (spinach, garlic, onion, feta cheese and eggs). The Saag Paneer could have used a bit more heat. I made a variation of my Grandma Mac’s 7 Layer Salad. I made serrano pepper coleslaw and added vegetables to much to what I made. I chose the Cuban style yellow rice over the Puerto Rican version, because the Puerto Rican had rice, seasoning, and annatto oil. The Cuban style yellow rice included peas, onions and red bell peppers.

Enchiladas Suizas

                                    Calabacitas ralladas

I made Hawaiian chicken teriyaki in March 2016. I over compensated with the amount of soy sauce. Using the juice from canned pineapple and lowering the amount of honey worked very well. The drinking pineapple juice I used the first time was too dang sweet. I also paired this dish with the coconut milk braised taro leaves. Uwajimaya in Beaverton and H-Mart in Tigard are becoming great resources of Asian and Polynesian ingredients.

Rick's tacos with serrano coleslaw

I discovered a variation of the enchiladas Suizas, I have yet to do. That is adding sour cream or crema Mexicana to the salsa verde. I will try that next time. I am remaking dishes I forgot to take pictures of. Enchiladas Suizas was the first. The next was Cuban mojo marinated pork shoulder. I think the roast was slightly overcooked on the second go around. I also did a better pairing with the sides. I made Cuban style yellow rice and Puerto Rican chayote hash. I also did not remake the sauce. I used the discarded marinade, the roast pan drippings and cornstarch.

Inarizushi special

Cucumber namasu salad

I worked to recreate my Grandma Mac’s hamburger hash. That was a fun experience trying into to make something from memory, actually my mom’s memory as well as my own. It was a great exercise in cooking. I also made another pot of beans this time using a ham hock. I prefer the smoked pork shank, more meat less salt and less fat. That is just my preference. I tried a variation of the serrano coleslaw. I removed the dry mustard and caraway seeds. I added the juice of half of a lime. It turned out to have the right balance of heat, sour, and sweet.

                          Grandma Mac's hamburger hash

With saag paneer, inarizushi, Thai massaman curry, enchiladas Suizas, and the bagel and lox sandwich, I am making things I crave instead of going to a restaurant, deli, café, or diner. These are dishes I missed and wanted again. Some of them are still works in progress, others I have perfected like my tacos, chili con carne, and others.

Cuban mojo marinated pork roast

                      Cuban mojo marinated pork roast sliced

January 2016

Rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce, ham and mashed potatoes, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and Thai chicken massaman curry with jasmine rice.

Cuban style yellow rice

                                 Puerto Rican chayote hash

February 2016

Tortilla Española (Spanish tortilla) with Spanish chorizo, piquillo peppers, and salchichón (Spanish salami), cream cheese and lox bagel sandwiches with onions and capers, Saag Paneer (curried spinach with Paneer cheese) with basmati rice, enchiladas Suizas with calabacitas ralladas (shredded Mexican zucchini), shrimp salad (shrimp, avocados, spicy sushi mayo), crunchy tacos with homemade taco meat and serrano coleslaw, beef and bean burritos with homemade meat filling, spinach egg bake (spinach, onions, garlic, egg and feta cheese), 11 layer salad, ground turkey tacos with serrano coleslaw, beef and bean burritos, pork chops with rice and coleslaw, pork loin roast with coleslaw, peas and corn, and beans with ham hocks.

                                             Cuban mojo sauce
March 2016

Cream cheese and lox bagel sandwiches with onions and capers, turkey cheese bratwursts with mashed potatoes, Hawaiian chicken teriyaki with coconut milk braised taro leaves, chorizo and eggs with corn tortillas, inarizushi special (fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice and topped with salad shrimp, avocados spicy Japanese mayonnaise, and sesame seeds) with cucumber namasu salad, hamburger hash, cucumber noodles with tonnato sauce, bean and cheese burritos, Cuban mojo marinated pork roast with mojo sauce, Cuban style yellow rice, Puerto Rican chayote hash, ground turkey tacos with serrano lime coleslaw, beans with ham hocks, eggs with hash browns, chili con carne and shoyu chicken with jasmine rice.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

State of the Blog 2016

Since August of 2012, I have only had two non-consecutive months where I did not post a blog article. It has been 3 years and 7 months that I have been blogging regularly. In 2014, I re-edited some of my Shadowrun articles from my old Shadowrun website. I re-released those articles in another blog, he Sixth World Re-Visited. There were a finite number of those, but the blog is still up, even though there is no new material.

This year I decided to add a food/cooking blog. There I would discuss the individual dishes I have made in rekindling my love of cooking. I did not think Fumbling Forwards was appropriate for the recipe write-ups or in-depth food/cooking related discussions. It did feel appropriate with the new blog. In order to get caught up with my current dishes I posted and wrote daily. This was exciting and scary. I finished and got caught up on, February 23, 2016. I started the daily writing and posting project on January 17, 2016, so it took 5 weeks and 2 days to get caught up. Now I will write about the recipes around the time I make them.

That blog reached over 880 hits in its first two months. I decided to change the name of the blog’s Facebook Page to Fumbling Forwards Productions to include the Kitchen Comeback Chronicles, The Sixth World Re-Visited, as well and any other upcoming projects from me. The Fumbling Forwards Twitter feed is for all my blogs and future projects too.

I still need to get my fiction projects going. March 2016, saw my script I co-wrote for the Byron Chronicles produced into a new episode of that audio drama. I even did voice work for a bit part, MI-15 agent/Thug. That was the first fiction project I had finished in a decade and a half. There is a good deal going on in my personal life. My blogs, fictions, and other creative projects may take a back seat, to some of that. As always I will let folks know what is going on. Thank you for all your support. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Kitchen Comeback Update 3

I made something I always wanted to make from scratch, well at lest the sauce. That was rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce. It was good, but the recipe is not the right one for me. I found another that does not use quite as many salty ingredients and I plan to use unsalted peanut butter the next time. My second attempt at Filipino pancit and my third attempt at Grandma’s zucchini casserole were spot on. I perfected both of those dishes, which is good since they are childhood favorites. I am glad I now have great versions to make from now on.

Turkey breast  in guajillo marinade roasted in banana leaves

I bought two of the Hungarian sausages from the German delicatessen. They were a tad steep in cost, so that will be something I do as treat every great once and awhile. I got a little burned out on the hummus, salsa, and tzatziki sauce. I toned that down the last few months. I still have the fixings for hummus and tzatziki sauce.

                                      Pipián rojo de Pepitas

I did use the Veggetti to make cucumber noodles with a tzatziki like dressing, I liked it. I also used it to make cucumber noodles with tonnato sauce. I preferred it with the cucumbers. I made zucchini noodles with marinara and Thai cucumber condiment salad with cucumber noodles. The Veggetti is turning into a well used device.

                                           Masa stuffing

I learned that veggie pizzas take longer to cook, otherwise they will get soggy. Last time I made Filipino adobo I thought the rice wine vinegar was too mild, I am going to try white or cider vinegar next time. When I made the zucchini noodles with marinara sauce they got too soft after blanching. I sautéed the zucchini noodles in the sauce as I warmed it. That infused the noodles with the flavor of the sauce and the zucchini noodles had the right amount of body to them.


I was really happy with my first attempt at my own chili con carne recipe. I added chipotle powder, ancho, powder, and Hungarian hot paprika to the recipe. I also added more cumin and paprika to it. The second attempt I used the identical recipe. It was a homerun. Next time I may add some guajillo chile puree. I started making bean and cheese burritos as a snack or meal. I use beans, cheese, salsa or taco sauce and pickled jalapeños. I ended up buying two jars of pickled jalapeños in December. My getting reacquainted with chiles continues. I used to eat pickled jalapeños on nachos growing up, but stopped in the last 30 years. That is when my tolerance for spicy foods started to wane. The last four or five months I have really increased how much heat I can handle. I tend to get things in the medium range. 

                                  California roll nachos

I finally did a holiday dinner. In the past I have made it following either my family’s traditions or that of my ex’s family. This year I went with Mexican dishes or Mexican inspired dishes. I made turkey breast roasted in banana leaves with guajillo marinade, pipián rojo de pepitas (a Mexican red pumpkin seed sauce), masa stuffing (stuffing made from masa harina {tamale/corn tortilla flour}), and esquites (Mexican roasted corn salad). There were a few tweaks needed to prefect the dishes, overall it was a huge success. The turkey breast was very moist. Next time I will use a little less lime in the esquites, more stock or broth in the stuffing, and guajillos instead of ancho chiles in the pipián.

                                            Salumi pizza

January had some speed bumps. I made a salumi pizza (pizza with Italian cured meats). The first attempt stuck to the rack. The second attempt stuck to the baking sheet. The third worked out well, however the edges were a little on the dark side. The fourth was still a little dark but I think I got it ready for next time. I made Puerto Rican arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas). I was confused by the cooking direction and scorched the dish. Luckily I had enough to make it a second time. The second attempt the rice was a bit overcooked. The pegao, the crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pot or pan, was a tad dark, but my mom loved it. Third time, I hope will be the charm.

                            Puerto Rican arroz con gandules

Since I started cooking again I have done the following family/childhood favorites: Quaker Oats meatloaf, Grandma Mac’s zucchini casserole (this one I perfected), 10 layer salad (a variation of Grandma Mac’s 7 layer salad), Filipino chicken pancit with mung bean thread noodles (AKA pancit sotanghon), Filipino chicken adobo, Filipino pork adobo, chile relleno casserole, Rick’s taco meat, shoyu chicken, and beans with smoked pork shank. I created my own chili con carne recipe. I found recipes for dishes I have loved as an adult: rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce, sopa de lima (Yucatan style chicken and lime soup), tzatziki sauce, roasted garlic hummus, picante sauce style salsa, pork chile verde, pipián rojo de pepitas (Mexican pumpkin seed sauce), tortilla Española (Spanish tortilla: egg onions, and red potatoes), Puerto Rican arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and enchiladas Suizas. 2015 was a banner year for my cooking journey. Yes, it was only 8 months of the year that is still two thirds of it.

The one thing I had missed with cooking from scratch is the constant experimenting. Be it with flavors or the cuisines of other cultures. I plan to expand my culinary horizons. There are other Filipino recipes other than the two I know how to make, adobo and pancit with mung bean thread noodles, and Filipino lumpia (AKA Shanghai egg rolls: a taquito sized egg roll), which I do not know how to make. I need to look into what else is out there. I plan to explore more with Mexican cuisine, Thai cuisine, Indian cuisine, Indonesian cuisine, Cuban cuisine, Puerto Rican cuisine, and so much more.

November 2015

Filipino chicken adobo with rice.

December 2015

Rick’s veggie pizza (marinara, mozzarella, parmesan, mushrooms, olives, green bell peppers, and pickled jalapeños), Hungarian sausage with mashed potatoes, quesadillas with chipotle powder, bean burritos (beans, green taco sauce, cheese, and pickled jalapeños), Filipino chicken pancit, rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce, tangy chilled avocado soup, smoked turkey sausage and mashed potatoes, turkey Polska kielbasa with mashed potatoes, toasted cheese sandwiches, zucchini noodles in marinara with parmesan cheese, Grandma’s Zucchini casserole, gazpacho Mexicano with lime and cilantro, cucumber noodles in tonnato sauce, toast points with tonnato sauce, zucchini in pesto, 10 layer salad, turkey breast roasted in banana leaves with guajillo chile marinade, pipián rojo de pepitas (Mexican red pumpkin seed sauce), masa stuffing, esquites (Mexican corn salad with roasted corn, cotija cheese, lime, cilantro, mayo, and Mexican hot chili powder), Rick’s red rice (rice, dice tomatoes, diced mild green chiles, guajillo puree, black beans, onion, garlic, and corn), Indonesian sweet pork with jasmine rice, and quesadillas.

January 2016

Quesadillas, bean and cheese burritos, Rick’s homemade chili con carne, California roll nachos, salumi pizza (salumi means cured or salted meats in Italian/ prosciutto, Genoa salami, capicolo, and pepperoni with mozzarella, parmesan, and homemade marinara), Puerto Rican arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), quesadillas tradicionales (corn tortillas, Oaxaca cheese, and Spanish chorizo), zucchini noodles in marinara, and Thai cucumber condiment salad with cucumber noodles.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

David Bowie & Me

I write this on the evening of January 10, 2016, I just learned of the passing of David Robert Jones or as the world knew him, David Bowie. Before I get to his accomplishments, I will get to my personal history with this musician, music producer, actor, and artist. Growing up in the seventies he was on the radio everywhere. At my Pentecostal Junior High, he was characterized by the teachers and school literature as one of the more morally corrupt rockers of the 60’s and 70’s since he was a self admitted bi-sexual. When I read about him I did not realized who he was based on his music till I was in High School. During that time my musical tastes were hard rock and metal. I loved his work from Space Oddity to the work in the mid 70’s. I was not a fan of his late 70’s to mid 80’s work, due to the genres David Bowie was working on in that period.

In college (1986-1988) at Forest Grove, Oregon when I was a Disk Jockey on KUPR, Pacific University’s radio station, I had a Classic Rock/ Oldies show. David Bowie was in serious heavy rotation. It did not hurt that the station had so many of his works on vinyl. In college I was experimenting seriously with music. When I immersed myself in his music, in college, I did not care about his sexuality. His work sung to me. I learned to love all of his work in college. I was the ultimate misfit in my mind, the genetic freak of nature. David Bowie loved freaks of all shapes, sizes, creeds colours, and endless varieties.

I have to admit David Bowie, along with another hero who just happened to be a friend of David Bowie’s, Freddie Mercury, taught me to accept all people for who they are. My credo is unless someone is doing harm to others and themselves I do my best to be accepting. In High School I started a path of rejecting some of the moralistic judgmental parts of my upbringing, by college and my mid-twenties the last vestiges of this were gone. I, to this day, see David Bowie’s work as instrumental in that path. As an adult I realized how he seriously influenced music from the 70’s on.

I saw many of his films: Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), The Hunger (1983), Labyrinth (1986), Absolute Beginners (1986), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Zoolander (2001), and The Prestige as Nikola Tesla (2006). Even if I did not care for the film, his performances were always impeccable.

Let’s get to his musical accomplishments. First was the hit Space Oddity in 1969 followed by the albums Man Who Sol the World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971). David Bowie helped usher in the Glam Rock era of the early 70’s with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars. He continued to experiment with rock, soul, funk, ambient, and electronic music over the years. He inspired punk, the new romanticism movement, Goth, new wave, alternative, electronic, ambient, industrial, synthpop, grunge, and so much more. Some of the inspiration was musical, some was style, and he inspired others with attitude.

He was behind the re-mergence of Lou Reed post Velvet Underground with Transformer in 1972. Lou had released a solo album prior, but it did not do well. Transformer blew the hinges off things. David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson were instrumental as the producers of the album that helped Lou re-discover his voice. That album had Lou Reed’s best known classics on it: Vicious, Perfect Day, Walk on the Wild Side, and Satellite of Love. David Bowie had a long working relationship with Brian Eno. He helped Iggy Pop with his solo career post Stooges with producing and writing songs for the albums Idiot (1977) and Lust for Life (1977). He even co-wrote Under Pressure, his duet with Queen in 1981. In 1982, David Bowie worked with Nile Rodgers of Chic on the album Let’s Dance. The Post Disco era had been hard on Rodgers. Let’s Dance led to Rodgers producing INXS, Duran Duran and Madonna. David Bowie was an artistic advocate; he helped other artists he valued.

In 1988 he started the band Tin Machine, going back to his rock roots. In 1995 he worked with Eno again on Outside. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1997 he allowed Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to remix I’m Afraid of Americans. His last album Blackstar (2016) was released in the same month as his passing.

He was a true Renaissance man and artist. He did not allow himself to become stagnant in any musical style, he evolved with the times. No one ever thought he was irrelevant, ever. He was a true inspiration and innovator. I hope he will inspire generations to come.