Monday, January 26, 2009

Off the subject

It's not food, politics or religion, but I went to a good concert yesterday. It was part of Bethany Lutheran Church's Faith and Arts series. The concert was billed as a tribute to Robert Shaw. The numbers with a large ensemble and organ were a bit muddy which would have troubled Shaw, but there were some lovely pieces. I liked two pieces from Durufle's Requiem in particular.
What I didn't like was having the audience join with the choir to sing the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. I know it was something of a Shaw tradition, but I would rather stick to the choir singing. Too many people in the audience think they know the score and don't, so it turns into a mishmash that just isn't pleasant or good music.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Evening with Colorado Cheesemakers

I am dreading a couple of medical procedures on Tuesday morning, but I'm really looking forward to an event Tuesday evening, January 27th. Jackie Rebideau at Fromage to Yours has pulled together a group of cheesemakers to discuss their cheesemaking processes. Not to be undone, several local vintners and brewers have come on board to pair their beers and wines with cheeses. It should be a real feast of local products for a mere $25 per person. Check out Fromage to Yours or call her at 720-220-3210 to reserve your spot.
I'm a big fan of supporting local producers and women-owned businesses, so I'd love to see my Denver area readers at this event! I get my mezzo secco dry jack cheese for my mushroom and spinach lasagna at Fromage to Yours. The store is located near the Safeway gas station at Quebec and County Line in Centennial but the Cheesemaker event is at the Doubletree Hotel Denver Tech, 7801 East Orchard Road, Greenwood Village.
By the way, my recipe for mushroom and spinach lasagna has just been accepted for the BloggerAid cookbook which should be available on Amazon in Nov/Dec 2009!

Questions of Value

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.
Jules Renard
(1864 - 1910)

I'm watching live coverage of people waiting for the New York Governor to announce the state's new U.S.Senator. What a mess! A couple of weeks ago, Illinois was the center of the world of insane politics with the governor allegedly taking bids for the Senate seat vacated by our new President. Saturday Night Live, Leno and Letterman made darn sure no one missed the latest absurdity in Illinois. Yet, once a new Senator was appointed, there were token objections before the whole thing became yesterday's news. Today, the emphasis is on New York and speculation about Caroline Kennedy's dropping out of the running for the Senate seat.
I do not know why Mrs. Kennedy withdrew herself from consideration and, frankly, I don't think anyone needs to know. I am struck, however, by the contrast between this Jules Renard quote and comments I've heard about Caroline Kennedy. One commentator suggested that Kennedy was held back in her political career by having taken most of her 30s and 40s out of the spotlight to raise a family. Caroline Kennedy has not been hiding out in a cave. She has written books, organized the Profiles in Courage award, served as trustee on boards. She is a remarkable and accomplished woman. She has decidedly not been on "the Mommy track."
I wonder how we develop our view of what has value. The CEO makes millions of dollars while the assistant who keeps him (yes, still in most cases, a him) on track, organized and who often makes his "high pie in the sky ideas" work earns less than a tenth the salary. The person blessed with great physical skill for sports earns millions while the teacher entrusted with the minds of our future can barely afford a home and food. For that matter, why do football players earn what they do and baseball players so much less? Why is the woman who chooses to be a mother while writing books and managing foundations less qualified to be a Senator than a woman who chooses to be a politician while raising her children.
Do we value those who promote themselves over those who promote others? How does compensation reflect our values?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bloggeraid cookbook

I've just submitted my recipe for an ambitious project for a Social Network, Bloggeraid, to launch a cookbook. Food is our medium and taking a role in alleviating world famine is our mission. Our wish is that you will share our excitement and help make a difference to our world by joining us on this journey.

We have announced our largest fundraiser to date ever!!!! With the help of Gloria Chadwick from Cookbook Cuisine , a member of Bloggeraid, we will be publishing a cookbook with 100% of the profit from sales being directed to our chosen agency. The funds we raise will be directed to specific programs of The World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations frontline agency. The needs are great and choosing a specific effort is currently being negotiated.

The target is a cookbook on Amazon by November/December 2009. For more information on the project, visit Bloggeraid. Apparently you do not have to be a food blogger to submit a recipe.

Proclaim Christ on your car!

This isn't an attempt to be profound. It's even rather silly, but...
I was just reading an article about license plates, specifically, license plates that promote Christianity. It seems that folks are up in arms over a South Carolina license plate that features art of a stained glass window with a cross and the words”I believe” across the top of the plate. Then there's the guy in Vermont who wants a personalized license plate referencing John 3:16.
I'm not particularly worried about these license plates. After all, there are the ubiquitous icthus symbols people put on their cars with all the variations. A couple days ago I saw one of these shaped as a shark with teeth and all. No one blinks an eye at bumper strips. Okay, so these fish and bumper strips don't imply state approval. With state approval or not, people will find a way to put their opinions on their cars.
A couple of months ago, someone released results of a study showing that people who adorned their cars, even with seemingly innocuous messages about their child being an honor student, were significantly more likely to be aggressive drivers than people whose cars were unadorned. Now here's the thing – are you more charitable toward someone who cuts you off if they have a Christian license plate? Do people who publicly profess their faith with a car adornment understand the extra pressure they place on themselves to represent the entire body of Christ?
Think about the oaths, “That blankety-blank Christian just cut me off,” “Does he think his Jesus will save him when he is the fourth car through after the light turned red?” Does proclaiming your faith on your car affect the language inside your car?
A friend calms herself by asking “Does this affect my salvation?” as a way of reminding herself that relatively few things that seem incredibly important are really very significant on the long term. Perhaps the people clogging the court system with legal action for and against Christian slogans or symbols on cars should ask themselves the same question...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, is a great account of Mortenson's experiences in Afghanistan. He got separated from his guide during a mountain climbing expedition and wound up, sick and lost, in a small town where the people wanted a school. What follows in the book seems to be his account of building that school and several others. When I read it the first time, I thought it should be required reading for the U.S. State Department as a primer on how to do business in that region. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, General David Petraeus read the book and sought out Mortenson's advice on how the military can work with village elders and leaders. Mortenson is quoted as saying this is a positive move for the military.
One of the significant kernels of wisdom in Mortenson's book comes from the elder of that first village who told him never do business until you have shared three cups of tea with the people you want to do business with. It occurs to me that this is just plain good advice for a lot of situations.
I've been a bit immersed in an adult education offering for my church that offers participants experience discussing political positions in an environment of civility. As we share those things that have formed our values, political and religious, we become friends and develop respect for each other and the many things that contribute to our opinions. I've gone to church with some of these people for about seven years now, been in Bible studies with them, sung in choir with them, even attended potlucks with them, but I never understood them or appreciated them so much as I do now having heard about their grandparents, learning the core values their parents taught them, getting at the root of what has formed and informed their views. We have commonalities we would have never known had we not shared our earliest memories of right and wrong. The class has been one version of sharing the three cups of tea.
I spend a week each September with people who consult in organizational development and project management and such. We spend our mornings in sessions sharing our professional expertise and knowledge. I respect these people as international experts in their fields because of what I hear from them in the sessions. In the afternoons, we hike, bike, play scrabble in the lobby or just veg out in the lobby with our books and knitting and conversation. One night we make pizza together, taught by one of us who honed his skills in culinary school and whose sideline hobby is consulting for pizza restaurants. Two of our number travel the country indulging their hobby of pyrotechnics. They taught us to make sparklers. Our pizza expert also seeks to break records for bubbles -- the largest, the longest lasting, etc. He's taught us the secret formula for bubble solution and, most mornings, we wake up to huge bubbles floating over the parking lot of our hotel. I respect these people, as I said, for their professional knowledge, but it is in the sharing of the other things, the games, the bubbles, the communal meals, that I build my trust and personal respect for these people. I recommend them to my clients, not so much because of that professional expertise though they are among the best in their fields in the world, but because of the trust built in the afternoons and evenings. Those are the "cups of tea" that make such a difference.
I'm thinking I want to drink more tea, build more personal trust with those around me. How about you?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A momentous day

What a momentous day to start a blog. I've watched our President-elect leave St. John's Episcopal Church as I've watched many Presidents-elect and Presidents do before. I admit it-- I am a genuine Inauguration junkie. I've been glued to the TV for every inauguration since President John F. Kennedy in 1961 when I was just a grade schooler. On the day of his inauguration, they brought a TV into our school and we watched many of the activities of the day, starting with the charismatic man and his beautiful wife leaving St. John's (though I was so far from the TV, I had no idea what I was seeing). I remember the commentators' surprise that he walked bare-headed down the parade route. And I remember such a short time later watching his horse-drawn hearse following a similar route.
Regardless of the political party affiliation of the incoming President, I watch the Inaugurals. I take vacation days, I close my office, I blog while watching the action on my TV. This day represents a uniquely American tradition, the peaceful transition of power from one political "regime" to another.
While I was more a member of the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuit" than the early Obama supporters, I am hopeful for this new President. On election night, while many were reminded of Martin Luther King Jr., I flashed back to early political memories, to the thrilling rhetoric of "my first" President, John F. Kennedy, with his "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." I thought again of that quote when I saw TV clips of Barack Obama painting a wall in a shelter for homeless teens.
As time goes by, it will be obvious that my religious beliefs and theology largely inform my rather liberal political persuasion. These are things that are important to me, my magnificent obsessions, if you will. My faith informs so many of my life decisions. At the root of it, God's faithfulness to God's sometimes faithless people as evidenced in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
So two of my magnificent obsessions are hopelessly intertwined. A third is less obviously tied to the others. I love food. I'm intrigued by the textures, the colors and the flavors. I am fascinated by how the flavors contrast and blend and I love developing my own twists and turns in recipes. I'll probably share some of my successes and failures here.
And so, as the current President, George W. Bush, descends the stairs for the ceremony and we await our new President, I end my first post as a blogger. Something so extraordinary as an Inauguration requires my full attention.