Thursday, March 26, 2009

La Luna

I like poetry. There, I said it.

Why does poetry get knocked around so much? It's not fair that the ability to recite a poem is considered pretentious and precious while knowing the final score of the 1983 World Series is respected as some kind of achievement of knowledge. In all honesty, though, I get the problem with poetry. If someone standing next to me in line at the grocery store quoted Wordsworth out of thin air, I would give him the same tolerant-yet-distant smile that I reserve for people who talk to themselves on the street. Especially if he quoted Wordsworth.

Not fair, is it?

I like poetry, though, and I would listen to Wordsworth Man, even while pretending to leaf through People Magazine.

Here's a poem that struck a chord with me this morning. It was written by Jaime Sabines, a Mexican poet who once commented, "poetry happens like an accident, a mugging, a love affair, a crime; it happens every day, when, alone, a man's heart begins to think about life."

I like that sentiment.

The Moon

You can take the moon by the spoonful
or in capsules every two hours.
It's useful as a hypnotic and sedative
and besides it relieves
those who have had too much philosophy.
A piece of moon in your purse
works better than a rabbit's foot.
Helps you find a lover
or get rich without anyone knowing,
and it staves off doctors and clinics.
You can give it to children like candy
when they've not gone to sleep,
and a few drops of the moon in the eyes of the old
helps them to die in peace.

Put a new leaf of moon
under your pillow
and you'll see what you want to.
Always carry a little bottle of air of the moon
to keep you from drowning.
Give the key to the moon
to prisoners and the disappointed.
For those who are sentenced to death,
and for those who are sentenced to life
there is no better tonic than the moon
in precise and regular doses.

Jaime Sabines Otros Poemas Sueltos, 1981 Trans. W.S. Merwin

*The right thing to do here would be to provide the original Spanish version, followed by the English translation. I am running late already this morning, though, so here is the English.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Preserved Lemons and a Successful Run

Knock, knock. Anyone out there?

I am back. Thank you for hanging around during my long absence.

After nearly a year of planning, the Riverwalk Run took place yesterday morning. If you've read my previous posts, you know that my friend Lauren and I are co-chairing a committee that organized this event, which raises funds for various Junior League projects. Our day went something like this:

A spatter of rain against the window over our bed woke me up around 2:00 o'clock that morning, forcing me to haul myself to the computer to check the forecast. An isolated rain cell was coming through the county. At least it's not a steady line of thunderstorms, I thought to myself. Not even the most dedicated runners show up when there's lightning. There was no point in going back to sleep, though; my alarm was set for 3:00.

When you get up that early in the morning, you find yourself unable to recall the ensuing events in the fluid way that you would recall a normal day. You just retain photographic stills and isolated sound clips in your mind. Here are my impressions of this year's Riverwalk Run, starting at 4:00 o'clock in the morning, as we set up for the Run:

Damn, people are just now leaving the bars downtown? Am I so old that I'm surprised by this? . . . Who moved our 17-foot U-Haul truck? Wait a minute, I moved it . . . I am driving a 17-foot U-Haul again, this time I'm off-roading it across a city park through crowds of people . . . Sara Q. just gave me an energy bar and I feel almost human now . . . looks like we have about 1,000 runners here today . . . The gun just went off and the 5-mile race just started . . . Is it raining again? Are you kidding me? S**t! . . . Wow, in spite of the rain, this is going well! . . . The sun is up and the Plaza has almost emptied out . . . Lauren is so awesome, she never slows down, even when she's exhausted . . . Our vendors are picking up our rented tables . . . We are done. It is only 11:00 o'clock, but it's time for a long nap.

Organizing this race was one of the most challenging things I have ever done outside of my full-time job. One of the things that I learned is that this kind of thing is most rewarding when you do it with good friends, as I did.

Also, it doesn't hurt when you're dedicating your time to a good cause. That helps put a very early morning in perspective. I can wake up early once in a while to raise tens of thousands of dollars for foster care here in Broward County.

Moroccan-Style Preserved Lemons
Adapted from this recipe at

Preserved lemons have a sticky, sweet taste that adds subtle flavoring. On Thursday, I will feature a recipe that incorporates a preserved lemon into its sauce. Stay tuned!

12 lemons
2/3 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a rolling boil. Blanch 6 of the lemons in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain and set them on a cutting board to cool. When the lemons have cooled enough to handle comfortably, slice off one end of each lemon, then, starting from the cut end, slice through the whole lemon lengthwise, stopping 1/4-inch from the uncut end. The lemon slices should be connected together at one end.

Here is an illustration:

Using your fingers, remove the seeds from each lemon. In a medium-sized bowl, toss the lemons with the kosher salt, then pack the lemons and their salt into a two-pint container. Juice the remaining six lemons and pour over the lemon wedges so that they are immersed completely.

Secure a tight-fitting lid on the container and let it stand at room temperature, shaking gently once a day, for 5 days.

Add 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the container and refrigerate. The preserved lemons will keep up to one year, so long as you make sure that they are immersed in their juices to prevent dehydration. Use them in salad dressings and sauces.

Makes: 1 two-pint container of preserved lemons

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Good for You

As I predicted a few weeks ago, organizing the Riverwalk Run has taken over my time completely. In a good way, though.

You learn a lot when you help coordinate a large event like the Run. For example, when people ask you how large of your event is going to be, you can describe it in any number of ways, depending on who is asking:

1. We are a 21-toilet event.

2. We are a 40-yard rolloff dumpster event.

3. We are a 60+ decibel event (meaning that we can't play music until after 7:00am, as a courtesy to the residents of downtown Fort Lauderdale)

4. We are a 200 gallon-of-water event.

And of course:

5. We are a 3-race course, 1,300-runner, awarding winning, fundraising event.

You also learn that when one portable toilet vendor backs out on you four weeks before the event, another portable toilet vendor will fill the gap without taking you for every last penny. A few weeks ago, our first vendor informed us that it could not guarantee that we would have toilets on race day due to an impending sale of the parent company's portable toilet unit. We panicked a little, since the Inauguration taught us all that people get really worked up about toilet access. We have a new vendor now, and we didn't even end up paying through the nose for toilets.

More surprising is that with the economy in shambles, there are still companies donating cash and in-kind items to local non-profits. This reinforces my belief that someone out there is doing well - or at least breaking even - economically. Plenty of companies are suffering - my circle of friends and acquaintances have experienced too many layoffs for me to say that things are looking up - but there are silver linings that you won't hear about on CNN. Rome hasn't burned completely. (yet)

Today, I bring you some "good for you" Up and At 'Em mini muffins. They're made of whole wheat, raisins, carrots, and a bit of honey. You won't miss the sugar, and the fact that these muffins are bite-sized makes them even more virtuous. Enjoy them!

Up and At 'Em Mini Muffins
Adapted from this Whole Foods recipe

3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg, plus 1 egg white
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of honey
1 Fuji apple, cored, peeled and finely diced
1/4 cup seedless raisins
1/4 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini-muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. You may line each socket with muffin papers if you want, but this is not necessary.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and honey, then pour into the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in the apples, raisins, carrots, and walnuts, just until they are incorporated into the batter. Spoon the batter in 2 tablespoon amounts a greased mini-muffin tin, filling each socket to the brim. Bake your mini-muffins for 10 to 12 minutes, then set on a wire rack to cool.

Serves: 18 bite-sized mini-muffins