After we eat

After we eat

The meal, consisting of something from the garden, something from Lake Superior, and something that Ralf across the table killed with his hands for the pièce de résistance, is over. There was wine, but I’m drinking Alquimia Reserva tequila brought back from Jalisco. There was cheese; soft cheese, hard cheese, blue cheese with a funk that still lingers at the back of my teeth when I think about it. They say Chinese is the most sophisticated style of cooking, more so than French (the culinary gold standard in the West), Italian, Spanish… But it hasn’t taken hold in the Twin Cities. In Minnesota it is still mostly greasy takeout and fried rice. It reminds that the world is not so small yet that we have can anything and everything at our fingertips. Our general culture is still defined generally by city, state, region, country, and (all) the people living therein. And while big box grocery stores and delivery services have given us access to the things that don’t grow nearby (bananas, avocados, quinoa, walnuts, grapefruit…) much of the cuisine is still defined by what does. But humans are odd in their distinction of culture. Amish stores selling Amish wares, restaurants offering the “most authentic” to white people while calls of appropriation and insensitivity abound. We move around, and we take our culture with us. And then we take the culture of this somewhere new onto the next somewhere new. The Italians wouldn’t have pasta if Marco Polo hadn’t traveled east, and his descendants brought it through Ellis Island and across the United States. Now we have Asian noodles and Italian...
My mom is still stronger than cancer, even though it killed her

My mom is still stronger than cancer, even though it killed her

Cancer is an uninvited guest, a dark shadow on a sunny day, a trick, a pointedly mean joke without punchline or retribution. It inspires sympathetic head-shakes and hugs from those who might understand or think they do. Everyone, it seems, knows someone who has battled cancer. Or at least knows someone who knows someone who has battled cancer (win or lose). Or someone that is currently in the fight. And what is left behind.   Of life and death  The room is a warm and steady 72 degrees. It doesn’t change much. In the hallway, the bustle of doctors and nurses in scrubs and white coats. We are at Regions Hospital in downtown St. Paul. The plants are plastic: living things are harmful. But there is still life here, watching my mother dance around the room in a hospital gown to music I play for her. The windows can’t be opened but sunlight is streaming through the pane with warmth as real as the summer outside. But things are different inside than outside. Inside, cut off from the melange of cars and people that cris-cross through downtown streets. From their lives and stories. This was 2004, a decade before the Light Rail first passed in front of the hospital. She would have been excited about that. It’s hard to write a story like this without coming across as sob (or looking for sympathy). As I write this, my neighbor’s dog is chasing a rabbit from the yard, barking, soon to be covered in dirt and mud, blissfully unaware of the emotional trials of humans. The dog does not offer sympathy, only support;...
Cake in the morning

Cake in the morning

The wedding cake sits uncut in the grand hall. Lights twinkle and dance around the room, through gold streamers hanging from the ceiling. But on my wedding night I find myself conversing with myself. Only myself. Those thoughts not worth sharing, or too personal, or too embarrassing to share. With friends or anyone else. Age has never been a hindrance to me. Nor would I let it be tonight. Not wearing (dad)-blue jeans and New Balance shoes with a hoodie stamped with my daughter’s college. Not… ravaged by divorce, bittered by tragedy, lost completely in the unending march of time. That is not me. But she, a beautiful 19-year-old bride, so pure in white, glowing so earnestly in the center of the room. Still young enough to understand that you must give off light, not reflect it. Most people have none. She, so young, is willing to be my wife out of the innate respect that come from connection; the deep feeling inside that transcends millieu, that should be called love (though, certainly not of the natural, meet-cute kind Hollywood would have us create from dreams and fantasies). And I, myself, being the only person with whom I can discuss it. I have no desire to be… used up? Not at all. Well one might think that it isn’t really their choice. Time has a funny way of taking everything from you, including your youthful vigor. If I might be so bold? You might. Focus not on how you might stay young. Focus instead on who you are no matter what your age. I am seventeen years her senior....
Defining a city by its food: 17 truly St. Paul dishes

Defining a city by its food: 17 truly St. Paul dishes

Much poetry has been written as an ode to the city; the place where we were born and/or raised, that has shaped us. Poetry, pictures, paintings and films. We look for these things and as the arts they help us to define ourselves as they define the world around us. However, as the “roving gourmand” Jim Harrison states plainly, “How feebly the arts compete with the idea of what we are going to eat next.” Isn’t it true that a good meal trumps all else? That the Mona Lisa cannot truly be enjoyed on an empty stomach? That we will walk out of an Oscar-worthy film to satiate a begging appetite? That we cannot read, or write, or dream, or laugh when hunger pangs beg the largest question of them all: Who am I, if not someone who needs to eat? So then we define the city by its food. It’s step one, maybe, the base (cornerstone) of how to describe the landscape. We start here. But then we ask what kind of food culture can be created when a city’s identity is changing; when people are moving in, and out, of its borders at a rapid pace? Regardless of what the landscape will look like in 5, 10, 20 years or more, these dishes remain truly representative of the Capital City’s soul. It’s core. And they will keep us fed today so that we may go on and enjoy everything else she has to offer.   17 dishes that define St. Paul Pelmeni at Moscow on the Hill These dumplings are simple. They are delicious. As a happy hour...
The beautiful people or: Viewing people viewing people

The beautiful people or: Viewing people viewing people

What do we know about people? Or rather, what do we know about ourselves? Because, whether we like it or not, much of what we think we know about others comes from what we think we know about ourselves. We often use other people as a mirror; as a reflection of our best and worst qualities. It’s no wonder, then, that we are either drawn to, or repulsed by, certain personality types/different people. Science says we’re attracted to those with the same DNA as us; that we’re predisposed to like those who look/think/act/live similar to the way we do. This seems like such a small-minded, and limiting way to live in a world where “looks like me” is becoming an increasingly subjective, and polarizing, basis of judgment. But it shapes much of our day-to-day, even (especially) when we don’t realize it. Inclusivity In recent years, the cultural trend seemed to be one of celebration; of differences and similarities alike, of togetherness. After electing Barack Obama as the first black president in U.S. history, same-sex marriage was legalized across the United States (on June 26, 2015, at which point over 1/2 of states were already there). The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that denying the fundamental institution of marriage to same-sex couples violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. But perhaps more importantly are the almost intangible gains made during the last eight years, and for many years before that; the general push toward acceptance and progress. We’ve come a long way since the days blatant/accepted discrimination (women’s suffrage, Jim Crow, Japanese internment camps…),...