Ravencon

I’ll be at Ravencon this weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, on a variety of panels about everything from Downton Abbey to sf art films. It’s a small, friendly, affordable con. The Guests of Honor this year are Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. If you come, say hello. I’m the skinny bald guy with the white beard.

Easter Poem

Easter Was Hard

 

Easter was hard for my young mind to grasp.

Chocolate bunnies laying eggs, Mom hunched

Over the dining room table blowing

The insides from raw ones Dad whipped into

a froth, scrambled, and we boys then devoured.

Watched Mom clear the table, paint the hollow

Shells with delicate brushes until they

Took your breath away. While Jesus suffered,

Died, a horrible, heartbreaking story,

But wait! That was Good News somehow because

God meant to kill his Son for us and Sin.

He didn’t really die.  You won’t either.

The virgins wore hats like flowering shrubs.

I got a new jacket, too big and white.

 

—Easter, 2013

Grace Under Pressure: A Vegan Single-Pot meal.

Grace Under Pressure:  A Vegan Single-Pot meal.

Soak 1 pound dry beans 8 hours or so, any kind of beans—chickpeas, pintos, black, red, cranberry, great northern, navy, etc.  Rinse and put in pressure cooker.  I use a 4-Qt. stainless steel Presto.  If you love beans, a pressure cooker will save hours of your cooking life.

Add a 15 oz. can of cooked diced tomatoes, juice included.  I use no-salt organic Muir Glen.  You may use Rotel or similar or add your own diced peppers.  I use a lot of jalapeños and roasted red peppers.

Add three cups liquid.  This can be water, broth, a mix of water with some soymilk or coffee or fruit juice or whatever suits your beans and spices and imagination.  A little low-sodium tamari, liquid smoke, your favorite hot sauce.

Add spices.  Go ahead.  Stir them in.  You can use chili powders, curry powders, etc.  2+ tablespoons to taste.  You’ll have the chance to adjust the spices.

Add crushed cloves of garlic, lemon zest, fresh ginger, etc.

Chop up 12-16 ounces of greens—spinach, collard, kale—or use a bag of frozen (no thawing necessary).  Pack the chopped greens on top of the bean and liquid mixture.

Peel and cut an onion (I prefer red, but any kind is fine) and cut it into eighths, so that you make onion “shingles” to lay over the top of everything.  The arrangement is important because it keeps anything from flying up and blocking the vents on the pressure cooker.

Bring to pressure and allow to cook for 18 minutes, and let pressure fall of its own accord.

When you open the pressure cooker, adjust liquid and spices, cooking a little to allow to thicken.  Serve with brown rice or quinoa or by itself.

If the beans aren’t cooked after 18 minutes, close it up and cook a few more minutes.  Time and liquid amounts can vary with equipment and beans, etc.

It’s even better the second day.  Divine on the third.

Mr. Cheese at Dusk

Mr. Cheese at Dusk

I couldn’t give up cheese, my neighbor says,
When I tell him what I eat since I almost died.
Mr. Cheese, leaning on the lamp post, laughs
To hear this now familiar refrain.
He follows me around just to hear it.
It makes his day, such heartfelt devotion,
Clearly evidenced by my neighbor’s waist.

Cheese always wins. My students, in stories
Can find places they’ve never been before—
Inside themselves, an undiscovered crossroads—
And then… they hitch a ride with Mr. Cheese
For a car chase (goes without saying, right?)
A vampire, a serial killer, both.
The whole fucking thing’s like just a dream, right?
How cool is that? Cheese asks, laughing so hard
He can’t stop. No one can stop Mr. Cheese.

Down the street we see three deliverers,
Blinkers flashing, carrying Cheese in their arms,
Swaddled to keep him warm. Come baby, come,
Come let’s adore him, baked into a pie.
Mr. Cheese, he stick with you till you die.

Happy New Year!

This has been a wonderful year for me, though not at all in the way I expected or hoped for, but that’s the way with good years, isn’t it?  I had just finished one novel with promising prospects, and was into another I had high hopes for.  The marketplace shrugged at both.  I shrugged back.

Then I literally was called back to teaching fiction writing in February, receiving a call a few weeks into the semester asking if I would take over an advanced fiction writing class for an ailing colleague.  I’m not sure how effective I was, but I had a great time and met some wonderful young writers.  That led to a summer workshop and two in the fall, and another this spring.  I want to thank my students for showing me a wonderful time.  The experience has energized my short fiction as well.  I don’t know the publication date yet, but I just sold a story to Lightspeed Magazine which was particularly gratifying because it’s a new, ambitious piece that represents the kind of work I most want to do now.  Besides, Lightspeed is totally cool.

I’m looking forward to attending ICFA this year again in March and returning to Readercon in July.  I’ve been asked about other events, but nothing is confirmed yet.  Now that I have finally licked the muscle pain that plagued me for a couple of years, I can travel again—not to mention sit comfortably for a panel discussion.

About that pain.  I had made the rounds of physical therapists, acupuncturists, spinal injections, etc., and though it would get better for a while, it would always come roaring back.  Finally, my new cardiologist asked if I’d tried going off statins.  I was taking Crestor at the time.  I had, but had had the idea nixed by other medical professionals.  When I quit, the results were dramatic.  Within a few weeks of being off the statins, my pain steadily retreated.  As I have stated elsewhere, I also changed my diet in response to my heart ailments instead of dosing it and I feel infinitely better.

Another reason this has been a great year is yoga.  I have always hated any kind of exercise classes.  It was only through Sarah’s persistent suggestion (some would say nagging) that I gave it a try.  (Thank you, Sarah).  When I found a really good instructor, Viktoriya Kosta, I quickly became hooked.  Mind and body both are better for it.  Namaste, Viktoriya.

I’ve started another novel—I can’t help myself—and I have a half-dozen stories in various stages of completion.  For the first time in years, there are no doctor’s appointments looming in my future.  Sarah, Ethel, and I plan on lots of walks to the river.  Life is good on Maplewood.  I like 2013 already.

 

Another Muffin

By popular demand. Well, a neighbor asked. I promise the next post will have something to do with literature and writing and all that. In the meantime:

Cocoa Cornucopia Muffins (makes dozen)

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl:
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
.5 cup Grape Nuts (or generic equivalent)
.5 cup rolled oats
1 T. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
.25 t. nutmeg
5 T. cocoa

Wet ingredients in another bowl:
2 egg replacers (2T. flax seed meal + 6 T. water; mix first, allow to turn gloppy)
.75 cup orange juice
.25 cup maple syrup
.5 cup soy milk
.5 cup raisins
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup shredded zucchini
zest from an orange
1 t. vanilla

Add dry ingredients to wet and fold together. It should be thicker than cake batter, but wetter than cookie dough. Fill nonstick muffin pan. Bake 30-40 min. at 375 degrees. To test doneness, first listen. If you can still hear them noisily cooking, give them more time. Test with toothpick. Tops of muffins should be firm. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 or 15 minutes before removing.

If you have only zucchini or carrot or a lopsided ratio, the recipe will still work but allow for the fact that zucchini is slightly wetter than carrot. Honey or molasses can replace the maple syrup.

Muffins!

I promised recipes, and I’ve been on a muffin kick lately.  The carrot muffins are more for dessert or snack—they’re healthy enough to have any time.  The cornmeal muffins make a nice companion to chili or beans.  The jalapeños speak to my Texas roots.  Use nonstick pans or muffin cups.  Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool in the pan a while before attempting to remove them.

Carrot Cake Muffins (makes dozen)

1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon, .25 t. each cloves, nutmeg, ginger or to taste
1.5 cups unsweetened apple sauce
.25 cup (or less) honey, maple syrup, molasses, etc.
1 t. vanilla extract
1 egg replacer (T. flax meal + 3 T. water)
2 cups shredded carrots
.5 cup raisins

Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Fold together. Bake 30-35 minutes @ 350.

 

Corn Meal Muffins (makes dozen)

1.5 cups cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. soda
1.5 cups unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup soy (or almond, oat, etc.) milk
2 egg replacers (2 T. flax meal + 6 T. water)
.25 cup chopped jalapeños from a jar with 1. t. of the juice (optional)

Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Fold together. Bake 25-30 min. @ 375.

Heart Advice

As a heart attack survivor, stories of heart attacks among friends and colleagues of friends come my way with growing frequency, sometimes tinged with the fear that they might be next since they can’t seem to diet, and they don’t have time to exercise. Let’s say there’s clearly a growing demand for the information I repeat here.  So put down those cheese fries and listen.  You can feel better.  You don’t have to die of a heart attack.

It’s been a bumpy road, but I’ll cut to the chase: Heart disease is a food borne ailment. Here are the dietary rules I follow (after Dr. Esselstyn’s diet):

1. No animal products of any kind (including fish of any kind, fish oil, egg whites, all dairy, even yogurt).  Low-fat vegan milks (soy, almond, oat, et. al. are okay).

2. No oil of any kind in preparation, or added in dressings, etc. (including Saint Olive Oil).  Saute in small amounts of added liquid or the expressed liquid from the vegetables themselves.

3. No nuts or avocados. This includes peanut butter.  If you don’t have heart disease, walnuts in moderation are okay.

4. No fruit juice.

5.  Avoid added sugars.  Sweeten sparingly in recipes.  No sweetened drinks, jams, etc.  No artificial sweeteners of any kind.  Some vegans are sugar junkies.  Kick the habit.

6. Eat lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens like collards.  Tomatoes, onions, garlic, zucchini, kale, potatoes, yams, mushrooms, corn, brocoli, carrots.  Raw, steamed, pureed, stewed, baked.

7.  Eat legumes.  Every kind imaginable from garbanzos to pintos to lentils.  Mexican, Indian, Italian, American—all my favorite cuisines have delicious bean-based dishes.  I never worry about getting enough protein.

8. Eat whole grains, including whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa.  Whole grain cereals without added oil or sugar like shredded wheat and Grape Nuts are fine.

9.  Eat whole fruit.  Apples, oranges, bananas, berries, peaches.

People say to me, “I don’t think I could give up cheese.” (or butter or name your addiction).  Really?  As for me, I don’t think I could go back to feeling like crap all the time.  I feel infinitely better now than I did ten or fifteen years ago in training for a heart attack.  I have more energy in every way.  I eat all I want, and I never gain weight.  Once your palate adjusts to not being constantly assaulted by sugar, fat, and salt, you’ll find you can taste the food.  Not only do I not crave these things, but the typical “treat” strikes me as fairly repulsive like a salted Crisco milkshake with bacon sprinkles.

As for the exercise you don’t have time for, don’t you have stairs where you work?  A block you can walk around?  If you can’t spend a half hour a day walking, maybe a priority check is in order.  If you get on the diet, you’ll feel more like exercise.  I walk a lot to school and back, and do some yoga.  You don’t have to torture yourself, but you can increase your activity.

I recommend, as with fiction revision, killing your darlings one by one.  Meat, cheese, sodas, oil, added sugar, starting with the most evil and ideally working your way to the Esselstyn diet.  Not diet in the sense of this weird eating regimen you go on until you can start having crap again because you’ve lost a few pounds, but a permanent change in what you eat and hence who you are.  I know too damn many otherwise smart people who are discriminating as hell about the matter they put into their minds, checking sources, getting second opinions and degrees, but who will fill their bodies with shit as building blocks and act like fate or genes or age has made them sick and fat, who will eat desserts called Death by Chocolate and think it’s a joke.  Tell it to your heart.  It has this delusion it’s in charge, that when it stops, you get to do without everything from butter to thoughts, like it or not.  There is a rational alternative.

Interested?  Check out Esselstyn’s website, as well as his son’s.  Live long and prosper.  Please.