Archives for September 2015

Eating Well After the Earthquake?

A Flashlight Aided Study (of My Food Pantry)
Okay, gang, here’s a little perspective on long-range planning. What food would you want on your shelves if an emergency took out your electric stove, your refrigerator and your microwave?
In my canning cupboard, deep in the basement, I pull out my battery-powered flashlight. Cans of pears, peaches and beans shine out at me, but also, I see rows of dishes that aren’t often used, and little figurines that once belonged to my mother.
I know what I don’t want to see in here – cans of USDA Approved School-Lunch Spinach. Sorry, Pop-eye, but your taste runs to tin. I also don’t want to be picking canned food out of shards of pottery and china. I need to store the dishes and figurines somewhere away from our emergency food supply. That’s a clear job for my half-hour* of weekly house cleaning.
My friends, what’s in your storage supply? What will your family really eat after the emergency. How will you cook it?
Ideas from two family foodies
Our sisters, Tammy and Marilyn, have been teasing me about getting ready for the earthquake. Yes, they were among those who received a water barrel and pump for Christmas. I asked if each family would like to have the water barrels. Tammy and Marilyn were delighted with the idea. So their teasing is not passive aggression. It’s just having fun with my project.
For my birthday, Marilyn and Tammy invested in a sack full of canned goods they believed I should have. See photo.
A Book Discovery
In addition, I received a cookbook about eating well after the power goes out. Marilyn, volunteers at Title Wave – the resale store for the Multnomah County Library. When she saw the title Apocalypse Chow, she could not pass it up. It seemed the perfect book to add to their joking around about my plans for family survival. The book turns out to be a great addition to the project.
Apocalypse Chow is written by Jon Robertson, with Robin Robertson. It was published in 2005 by Simon Spotlight Entertainment, of Simon and Schuster. Yes, that’s Jon, writer and publisher, and Robin the chef of Global Vegan Kitchen. Tanja Thorjussen’s drawings add a lot of homey character and clarity to the book.*
It turns out that the Robertsons live in Virginia, so have survived several hurricanes, some with more grace and pre-planning than others. Collecting all they have learned about survival and grace in this 246 page volume, Jon has written a very usable and often funny book encouraging the rest of us to plan to have food we will be able to cook with minimal fuel and water. He also encourages us to take a good look at our eating preferences and our snobberies as we shop for the staples we will use in the AFTERS. Buy what your family will eat with pleasure because there will be a lot of other things to cause angst.
Apocalypse Chow contains some surprising lists, including several that encourage the family chef to visit various ethnic markets and stock up on great, non-perishable items. These change-of-pace foods will keep the family from becoming jaded on Boston Baked Beans.
Grilling and boiling tips, storage ideas and a cast of 15 minute recipes are featured in Jon Robertson’s readable, humorous and important book.
Apocalypse Chow is available as new and used books. I have ordered five more copies (yes the sisters will be getting a copy for a birthday or half-birthday*, as well. You will enjoy it, too. And its lists, if heeded, will give you a better survival kit than the basics list that Homeland Security might have recommended.

*Half-hour a week house cleaning? I am my mother’s daughter and learned efficiency from her. Best house-cleaning tip she gave me? Take off your glasses. To the nearsighted, the clean and the unclean fuzz into soft color and fine texture.
* Tanja Thorjussen’s drawings add clarity? Thanks, Tanya for clarity on what Jon meant by a wine box to use for food storage. We at RichenHaus buy wine by the bottle and were therefore imagining an empty wine-party box. Jon had in mind a wooden container for twelve one litre bottles to use for storage.
*Half birthdays? Well, any excuse to give something important to those I love.

Two Coins in my Pocket

I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out two quarters. Before I paid for my taco, I took a second look at the coins. That look sent me scrambling for enough change to pay for the already-ordered lunch and still keep the two coins.

These coins sat in my hand and spoke deeply to me about the choices we make in art.

The first coin:

SD 2006

SD 2006

South Dakota as depicted in the state coin of 2006, shows Mount Rushmore – the complete view of the four presidents. It also depicts a Chinese Ring-Necked Pheasant, the state bird, in flight. All of this is encircled by ears of wheat, reminiscent of the plumes of wheat on an old penny. The wheat is also a nod to a critical product of the state.

The state coin does a good job of depicting South Dakota. The layout of space and choice of the bird in action are good, but the artist was asked to sacrifice quality for quantity in the design. As a result, the faces of Mount Rushmore suffer. President Jefferson’s face especially is distorted. It is so small it cannot be minted to look anything like the original carving (shown below). And the flight of the bird is unrelated to the monument over which it flies.

And then I saw the second coin:

SD 2006

SD 2006

The second coin is the 2013 National Park quarter. Though the depiction is again of Mount Rushmore, here the focus is on the first two president’s heads in side view, and on the process of creating the sculpture. In front of Washington’s majestic silhouette, there is a hint of scaffolding. Beside a very recognizable Jefferson, we see a roped carver swinging his mallet. (the carver is Gutzon Borglum, I assume, or his son, )

In the first coin, mint artist, John Mercanti, whose design was chosen by the people of the state, took the pulled-back camera view and depict many items in a small space. In the second, the designer chose to move in, show the monumental size of two presidents. The artist also showed action that was directly related to the carvings.

The second coin, with its tight focus, tells a story and thus is much more memorable design.

I will try to remember this artistic truth when I create. Focus. Bring my audience into the focus of my art. Let the carefully chosen part depict the complex whole.

Do you have examples of this choice in your own work? Camera pulled back? Camera in tight? Are there examples of the long-view, close-view choice in paintings, sculptures, poetry, plays, or books you’ve enjoyed? Write to me at rae@raerichen.com about your own ideas and examples. Let’s hear it for perspective choice.

By the way, I want to give credit to the artist of the National Park coin, but the website doesn’t list the designers. I have written to them with the request that they give credit to the artists. When they answer, I will let you know.

Celebrate the Day, whatever Day you’ve got!

Tillamook Mudslide and Thou Beside Me

Twenty-five years ago, our daughter, then a young college student, planned an anniversary party for Woody and me in the fellowship hall of our church. Her friends and brothers helped. The ladies of the church helped. Our friends and family came and we had a wonderful celebration.

That happened to be an Olympic Year, which fact led to the following event. Toward the end of that party, Woody’s dad, Grandpa Clarence, made a toast: “Woody and Rae, you’ve got the Silver. Now go for the Gold!”

“Hear! Hear!” our friends and family urged.

Later, Clarence’s twin sister, Aunt Clara, came up to hug us. She said, with her charming twinkle, “I’m really glad I was able to come today, because, for your fiftieth anniversary, I have other plans.”

What fun we had that evening, and what wonderful memories – some of beloved friends and family still in our lives, some of lovely people now gone and whom we miss.

And today, we are celebrating that Gold Anniversary.

Our daughter, now a busy mother and teacher, with no party-planning time at the beginning of a school year, asked us, “How are you celebrating your 50th?”

We said, “We’re going to a Thorns game the night before. Go Thorns! In the morning, we’ll take your little brother to the airport for a meeting in New York, and then we’ll just continue the same party we’ve enjoyed for fifty years.”

“That’s it?”

“Maybe some Netflix.”Flowers wait for dinner

“That’s it?”

“When you’ve enjoyed each other’s company through joys, and supported each other through sorrows, if you are glad when the other half arrives home at the end of the day, that’s one big celebration. We hope to continue right up until we join Aunt Clara in her other plans, and show Grandpa Clarence that we took his advice.”

“Okay,” she said, “party on.”

Well, beyond that much celebration, here is a photo of the flowers on our table tonight.

The table is set, ready for the pot roast that’s in the oven. We’ll probably get into some kind of world discussion often generated by the map on the wall. And there is also Tillamook Mud Slide ice cream. We’ll have that halfway through a movie.