Pumpkin Gumbo

I have made several different pumpkin soups. This one was a real winner! I know this is not the season for it, but the scraps of paper I wrote the recipe on just percolated to the top of the pile, so here goes.

Take 1 large pumpkin and remove the seeds. Cut it up and boil until soft in a stock pot. Remove pieces and puree in a food processor. Set aside.

Finely chop 1 large celeriac in food processor, then toss it into the stock pot to start simmering it in the reserved liquid from boiling the pumpkin.

Finely chop 1 fennel in food processor, including the fronds, and toss it into the stock pot.

Remove the stem from 1 eggplant, then finely chop it, peel and all, in the food procesor and throw into the pot.

Finely chop 3 leeks in food processor and throw it in the pot.

Slice 1 head celery and 1 pound okra in food processor and add to pot.

Add the pumpkin back to the pot.  Set it up double boiler style. Continue to stew.

In a large cast iron skillet brown ~3-1/2 lbs. of ground beef in 2 T olive oil.
Season it with 2 T salt, 1/2 T black pepper and 2 T basil
Add it to the pot and stir it in.

Add 2 t nutmeg, 2 t ground cloves, 2 t cinnamon and 2 T cocoa powder 

Stir regularly. Stew for a couple of hours. It serves a crowd in a very happy, healthy way!

pumpkins

 

 

Avocado Fried Rice

redriceThis is something I just whipped up this morning as a side dish for breakfast. It was so tasty, I made it for my main dish for lunch! It’s super easy. We had leftover red rice. It had been boiled with nutmeg in it to give it some added flavor. This morning, I put some sesame oil in the cast iron skillet and heated it up; cube a haas avocado and fry it in the oil, then add some olive oil, then add about  cup to a cup and a half of the red  rice. Fry it up on high heat, turning frequently, until it is the desired crunchiness or softness.

Bon Appetit!

Nebraska

Oh, to be young again!

Or, in my case, for the first time. I spent most of my time as a child with adults, or at least older children. I would help my older sister with her homework. My brother took me to college when I was 13, got me drunk; and I still held my own in theological discussions with the divinity graduate students into the wee hours of the morning. I still remember the discussion nearly 50 years later! I was born old! This was not the case for Nebraska.

Even though Nebraska had had a pretty hard knock life so far, he remained childlike, cheerful, confident; just a downright happy guy and a joy to be around! We hosted Nebraska (yes, that is his real, first name) for a weekend in our home, while he was staying at Liberty House prison aftercare program in Schwenksville, PA, in 1986. I was Mennonite Chaplain and Volunteer Director with Liberty Ministries at the time and had helped reorganize the aftercare program there, after it had closed in Phila. Nebraska was one of the early residents. He was just 20, and had already been in prison. He had been raised in the foster care system.  Who knows if he actually committed a crime? He was a dark skinned, black youth. He was irrepressibly cheerful. That is enough to get one locked up in any number of towns and neighborhoods in Pennsylvania.

We had a great time with Nebraska. The one memory that sticks out is our trip to Ikea. We all went to Ikea together, all seven of us: Bethann and I, our four daughters and Nebraska. Now Bethann and I were about 30. The girls were 9 and under. In the store, we got a little spread out, but we could see each other. One or another of the girls would exclaim, “Mommy, come see!” or “Daddy, come see!” when they saw something they liked. Then Nebraska exclaimed, “Mommy! Mommy! Come see!” loud enough for the whole floor to hear, and they all watched Bethann answer. We have been tickled by that scene every time we have recalled it, in the 30 years since!

nebraskaWe don’t know what happened to Nebraska after that weekend. I was so busy overseeing over 500 volunteers in eight different jails and prisons and starting several tutoring and other programs. We never saw him again in prison or in aftercare, or on the street, so I’m taking that as a good sign. But I don’t know.

This I do know. Nebraska was not a thowaway. He was not a ‘taker’. He was, and hopefully still is, a beautiful human being, and our brother someplace.

Yin & Yang

"Yin"
“Yin”
yang
“Yang”

I decided to just have some fun with the paint today and paint a lighter subject, so I painted two daylilies. I used a limited number of colors. “Yin” is based on a Hilltown Pride Daylily, with a Kelly Green and Green Apple split background. On the “Yang” the colors are reversed. I think they make a fun, colorful set. They are each 12″x12″.

Yellow Split Pea Ham Soup

A couple of weeks ago I made the best split pea, ham soup we had ever had. We had a shoulder ham with a good joint bone in it. I went to Assi Market (a Chinese supermarket) with my daughter and granddaughters to buy some seafood, gluten free noodles and green tea. Rather than making another stop, we looked for split peas there. The only selection they had was a four pound bag of large, yellow split peas. I normally use green, but these looked healthy, and convenient, so I went with them. This was the second stop. I had already picked up celeriac, onions, fennel, and garlic at Produce Junction.

Start with the Broth. In a 10 quart pot, simmer:

  • 1 ham bone
  • 1/2 celeriac, cut in chunks
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 2 tops & fronds of fennel
  • 5 cloves of garlic

Simmer until a nice aromatic broth is created. Strain the broth. Boil in the broth:

  • 2 pounds yellow split peas
  • 1 pound carrots, chopped extra fine in the Ninja
  • 1 large onion, chopped with the carrots in the Ninja
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed

Add ~1 Tablespoon turmeric and generous grinds of black pepper. Add cubed ham back to soup. Warm a bit longer. Serve. It is thick and hearty, and oh so tasty!

Kenny

missionaymentalitySKenneth Cobbs challenged me and instructed me like few other persons in my life in such a brief time. I can count on one hand the people who have had this kind of impact in this short a time, and they all seem to totally, irretrievably disappear. At least Kenny left me with a couple books of his poetry, including one poem about me. It is not particularly complimentary toward me. I was alarmed when I read it. Kenny and I discussed it. He stuck to his guns and defended it. This was how he felt. It cut me to the quick. I was grateful for the critique and thanked him for his honesty. I asked his forgiveness, for that was not how I wanted to come off or how I intended our ministry to be perceived. At the time, I published it in The King’s Jubilee newsletter as a confessional, with an appeal to help please, let’s all do better.

Kenny had given me two booklets of his poetry that he had typed up. He managed to photocopy several copies and staple and fold them. He would sell them for $5 each to raise a little cash. I made some copies for him. I told him I would retype and reset the booklets in nicer fonts, with full color covers. I did this. He never showed up to retrieve them or the money for the copies that I sold for him. I never saw him again. I contacted the nuns who he said he was visiting that week. they had not heard from him. I left my phone number. I have searched for him every couple of years, since, to no avail. That was in 1998. I keep hoping that he chose to disappear and become a Buddhist monk somewhere. He was an intense person, wise beyond his years, yet I fear the world was too rough for him. He had been part of the MOVE family and had not recovered from the terrorism inflicted by the city, and the lies and machinations to frame Mumia Abu Jamal for killing a cop; after Mumia dared to report sympathetically about MOVE.

Kenny took me down a peg. I was glad for it. He did it with honesty, in the spirit of true brotherhood and love. I have gone back again and again to our conversations and his critiques to see how I measure up “according to the Kenny scale.” If he knew, he would laugh so loud!

kennyI painted this from emotional memory. Kenny’s skin was darker. I have a hard time with painting dark skin tones and still getting feature definition. Sorry. My counselor and I talked about this painting today. This is the first time I have obscured a part of a face. I think this is because both of us were blocked in some major ways. He was dealing with PTSD from Mayor Goode’s bombing of West Phila. I was a recovering fundamentalist; had been abused by clergy, yet still playing the clergy game. Kenny’s right eyebrow is raised. This was done subconsciously on my part, but it makes perfect sense. Whenever I think of Kenny, I think of our conversations and his piercing, unflinching criticism. It is rare that I can find someone who can give as good as get. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Prov. 27:6) I measure my progress on stepping down from my “god complex” and getting over being a “white knight” on the “Kenny Scale”. This is the raised eyebrow and slightly more open right eye. (his right) The background color of orange and shirt as bright red were chosen because of the MOVE fire on Mother’s Day, 1985. My missing front tooth is from that night, as well. But that’s another story.

I think I’m doing pretty OK on the “white knight” problem. I’ve been invited to events by black friends. When I have shown up, I was the only white guy there.  I overhear their friends ask, “You didn’t say he was white.” My friend says, “Oh, I forgot.” At one party, they replied, “You forgot?!” My friend said, “Yeah. Chill. Just get him a beer. Talk to him for a while. You’ll see he forgot, too.” I think Kenny would be just OK with me now.

Franklin – Steampunking My Bathroom 6

tiles_completeAlmIt may not seem like much, but it was a huge undertaking for me. I finally finished painting the lines for the tiles on the upper vanity wall of the bathroom. There are five accent tiles. I painted the background color on these. It is taking me so long because my health has been not so good. I had a severe TIA a few weeks ago. We thought it was another stroke. I am still suffering some deficits from it. At any rate, it landed me in the hospital. They did all sorts of poking around and found that I have some major heart valve issues. This explains why I am exhausted all the time and fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

franklin
Franklin considers his grandfather to be the wisest man he knows.

The latest cartoon character to join the collection is the Peanuts character Franklin. He is Charlie Brown’s African-American friend. He is Charlie’s most loyal friend. He admires his grandfather and considers him the wisest man he knows. He is located to the right of the clock.

Of the four remaining accent tiles, only two will be cartoon characters. The other two will be dedicated to Bethann’s and my passions: sewing for her; art for me. They will be a challenge.

Robert and Joyce

I met Robert when he was an inmate in the Philadelphia House of Correction and I was Mennonite Chaplain. He was then transferred to the Phila. Industrial Correctional Center when it opened in 1986. He attended my Bible studies there. He asked me to bring some groceries, a Bible and a few other items to Joyce where she was living, Richard Allen Homes.

robertjoyceWhen the other inmates heard I was going there, they urged me not to go. They assured me it was far too dangerous for one such as me.

I went. I was shocked to find such deplorable conditions. Joyce was living on the couch in a tiny, bug & vermin infested apartment with an older woman who was dying of leukemia. Joyce was there illegally, but she exchanged care for the woman in lieu of rent of couch space. There was a waiting list to get into RAH. The entry hall had been firebombed and never cleaned up.

I dropped off the groceries. We had a short visit. As I was leaving, I saw that several cars in the parking lot had their windows smashed. Another car with its windows smashed out pulled in just then. The next thing I see is a group of tough guys sizing me up. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt; nothing to indicate that I was a minister of any kind. This was the kind of trouble the men at PICC had been worried about. Then, all at once, they all focused just above my head. Then I heard one of them mutter to the others, “Don’t mess with him. He’s a missionary man.” The tallest of them then said, “Have a nice day.” I replied with the same and proceded to my car, hoping to find it with windows intact. They were.

After Robert got out of jail, we had Joyce and him to our house for dinner. There were more grocery runs. Then word came that Joyce had died from AIDS and then word from the street a month later that Robert passed, as well. We knew them less than a year, but they left a mark on our hearts.

They were the first people we knew to die of AIDS. This was several years before World AIDS Day in 1991 and the red ribbon AIDS awareness campaign. I put a little anachronous AIDS ribbon earring in Joyce’s ear in the painting. Once again, these are not accurate likenesses, since we have no photographs, and it has been nearly 30 years. They are likenesses painted out of loving memory.

Ya Gotta Have Art!

art
“Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct and to refrain from destruction.” – Evelyn Waugh

My art has become an obsession. I now have four paths for my art, and it consumes most of my waking hours. This is probably an improvement over thinking about the current election cycle, no?

The first path is decorative; the faux finish subway tiles, including the cartoon characters, etc. The second path is painting portraits to illustrate my book: “Other People’s Children”. These are portraits of people whom I have known who society has labeled throwaways: the homeless, prisoners, etc. The third path is a challenge from my psychologist to explore the abstract. This is a tall order, as I believe in order to do abstract well, one must have a firm grasp on realism. You see my problem.

heidnikThe fourth is meta in that it goes beyond all of these to challenge my own stated belief in the universal pro-life position. I need to paint a portrait of serial killer Gary Heidnik that is done with love and respect, recognizing that he was born with all of the same potential and hope that I was. I was once in his presence and could feel evil emanating from him before I turned to see who it was. Yet, immediately I was struck by the fact he was still alive. There was still hope for change, still potential for good. He was still a fellow human being. We should never go down the rabbit hole to attempt to understand why he did what he did, yet there are those two words of Jesus of Nazaeth that keep calling me up short: “Condemn Not!”

It Must Be Spring!

My postcard from Edge of the Woods Native Plants arrived today announcing their “Nursery & Gardens Opening for the season on April 1st” immediately after I finished painting my giant rendition of a buttonwood bush blossom. Spring is in the air! I don’t get paid to advertise Edge of the Woods. It is one of my favorite places in the world! It is not so much a business as it is a mission to save the planet. It is a business as well, so please go, and buy good, healthy, native plants there.

buttonwoodblossomThis post is really supposed to be about my art. I purchased the buttonwood bush at Edge of the Woods a few years ago. It is in front of our house, the first floor front of which is painted red. This bush has these cool, one inch diameter blossoms. Our bush is hard against a native Virginia Rose. The two of them are covered with six or seven different kinds of bees throughout much of the summer. I painted this blossom on a 16″ diameter canvas. I painted the edge bright yellow, intending to leave it simple and frameless. I think it would make a nice Christmas decoration for the native plant enthusiast. This is as close to abstract as I have gotten with my painting so far.

Click on the image to view it larger. Look at it and tell me what it makes you think about or how it makes you feel. The doctor is in.