Memories of Mujadara

Some moments in time are perfect.

When everything around you was just so; understanding, even then, that you are most likely going remember the time for eternity.  It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic or even noteworthy, it’s just a time when everything was ‘right’ – and you felt like you were where you should be.  I don’t know how else to describe it and I don’t even know if it will translate to paper, but I guess I won’t know until I try, eh?

Mujadara brings it back to me, every time.  This simple dish of lentils, rice, and caramelized onion spiced with salt pepper and cumin, is, for me, laced with memories of an ideal moment during my life (and delicious to boot – in a way that I never expected with just lentils & rice but it’s the caramelized onion that does it).

It’s Sunday morning at the restaurant. Winter is just starting to nudge you a bit and let you know of its coming. The back room, bakery, where we bake and prep is warmed from the huge double hearth ovens, yet the bakery still has an invigorating chill from the big open windows.

The bakery is typically populated with two bakers, one prep cook, and the bakery prep cook (to this day I don’t know where this title came from – that person made soups, quiche, lasagna, salsa & cut fruit – which in no way benefited us bakers). Sundays were a little magical.  Sundays were the days when a couple of the line cooks came back to our area to make cheese sauce and fry tortillas.  The best Sundays featured a visit from Kamil and Osama.  Both men hailed form the Gaza strip in Palestine and we benefited not only from their wisdom but their mad cooking skills.

Kamil was a very gentle, soft spoken man; slender in build, dark skin, dark eyes, dark hair (what was left of it anyway) and the sweetest smile going.  His heavy, but beautiful accent and soft voice required an extra attentive ear.  Osama was an altogether different package, sturdily built, light caramel skin and sea green eyes.  Yes, sea green eyes.  He had more of an Egyptian look to him, but he was fiercely Palestinian and missed his family in Gaza.  His name means “Lion” and t’was apt for him.  He was a man of extreme emotions at times. Ninety-nine percent of the time he was mellow, with a smile and laugh, but on the rare occasions when he was angry, he was fierce. Not violent, just passionate.

On this particular Sunday, Kamil decided to make us all some STRONG Turkish coffee (as if there’s another intensity for Turkish coffee). He set about with his small metal cezve 

The magic happens in this small metal container

The magic happens in this small metal container

making us each our own coffee served in beautiful demitasse cups he’d brought with him from his homeland.  And after we each had one cup, he made us another and possibly another.  It was so delicious and we were so hopped up on coffee.  We buzzed around like little bees – all of us laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  While Kamil made cheese sauce and coffee, Osama had put on two pots of water to boil, getting ready to make some Mujadara for our lunch.

It was the first time he’d made us this particular dish. He told us, that day, he was homesick for his mother and that Mujadara was one of the typical day-to-day dishes she’d prepare for his family. He told us that it was not an entrée you’d see on a menu in a typical Middle Eastern restaurant as it was a very ‘peasant-y’ dish – not much to look at.  To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much – I’m not a fan of rice and lentils have to be highly spiced for me to enjoy them. SURPRISE – it was fabulous.  Those three main ingredients had a lot to offer.

When the Mujadara was prepared, Osama plated up a portion for each of us, warmed up some flat bread and we all ate together.  It was a perfect Sunday. I felt like I was in the right place at the right time – surrounded by people that I cared for very deeply all sharing in a meal made with love and warm memories.

After we gorged ourselves and the caffeine wore off, I think we were all ready for a nap.  We crashed hard.

And that, my friends, was a perfect moment in my life.

And this, my friends, is the recipe for Mujadara, prepared in the manner of my friend Osama’s mother.

 

MUJADARA

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup uncooked rice – I prefer basmati – choose your favorite kind
    • 1 cup uncooked lentils – green variety is the best, red will dissipate
    • Enough water to make both rice and lentils
    • 2 large Onions – red or vidalia are best – sliced in half moons and somewhat wide (in other words not thinly sliced)
    • Olive Oil
    • Cumin
    • Salt
    • Pepper

To Prepare:

    • Cook both the rice and lentils according to the package directions (I actually will cook them both together because I’m lazy)

 

    • Whilst the rice/lentils are cooking heat up the olive oil in a large heavy cast iron pan or a deep sauce pot (you need enough room to add the rice/lentils later on) – Medium heat

 

    • To caramelize onions: add the sliced onions and begin to sauté them on low heat for 20-25 minutes, until the onions have turned a deep brown.  Stir the onions around during the process

 

    • For the last 10 minutes of the caramelizing, add the cumin, salt & pepper (I have no measurements to offer – you want them highly spiced but not too salty). I also like to add a little water to the onions and cook it down – this helps to soften them and it will also deglaze the pan adding to the rich flavor of the caramelized onions.

 

    • Once the lentils and rice are cooked, add them to the onions. Mix well on low heat.  taste and re-season as necessary.

 

  • Serve warm. A little plain Greek Yogurt is delightful.   Some people like a squeeze of lemon as well.

    Looks blandiola, tastes like heaven.

    Looks blandiola, tastes like heaven.

 

And that is all there is to it.  Mujadara tastes even better the 2nd day, after all the spices have infused in the rice and lentils.

Posted in Baking, Cooking, Eating, Family, Food, Humor, love, Recipes, Relationships, Vegetarian, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Blogging Tour (Blogging From the Heart)

Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher:

People,
I am running on mush-for-brains, I wanted to reblog this the day my fabbo friend posted it…but alas, it happened not. MEA CULPA! MEA CULPA! PLEASE FORGIVE MY TRANSGRESSIONS, KAREN!

Ok now that that’s over with – please read about the magic that goes on in Karen’s head. You’ll be glad you did.
My favorite Karen story, and there are many, was when she was 14 she bought and WORE these plastic-y ‘alligakot (that’s alligator with a “K”) type man shoes at a some kind of weird place, I want to say a gas station/store in a small hellish town in Southern Arizona…maybe Gila Bend? But I remember thinking “I have never met a female that would buy shoes like that – I like this person”. That about sums it up.  And I have really long sentences, with too much extra information jammed in, and I wonder why it’s confusing…

So what are you still doing reading this? Get to it, people!

Originally posted on Mended Musings:

blogging tour collage

A couple of week ago, Katia at IAMTHEMILK asked me if I’d participate in a blogging tour that’s making its way across the blogosphere. It’s not an award of any sort but a way for bloggers to share a little bit about their writing process. Below I answer four questions and then tag some other bloggers to do the same.

I love Katia and the way she finds just the right mix of humor and seriousness in many of her stories. Katia’s post about her writing process is On Trees and Writing but please read The Unbearable Lightness of Being Away where she shares her feelings about the Israeli and Palestinian struggle and how it feels for her to be so far away from her home.

What am I working on?

Well, I’m not writing a book. I might be the only blogger in the blogosphere who doesn’t aspire to be…

View original 757 more words

Posted in Humor | 2 Comments

I often wondered if I began talking in the womb…

Greetings People,

I’m honored to have been tagged in a blog-tour that is happening right now.  Honored and surprised as I’ve not really been an active blogger nor reader for a little bit of time – and I’ll explain why in just a bit. But first I want to say “Thank You” to Karen, from Mended Musings, for all her support and including me with all these really talented people.   In turn, I shall be tagging 3 exceptional writers to participate.

I often wondered if I began talking in the womb… I wouldn’t entirely rule that out as a possibility. Some of my earliest memories consist of hearing people ask my parents ‘does she talk like that all the time?’ and being paid quarters (serious 7 year old cash in the ‘70s) to remain quiet during a car trip.  I’ve ever been a talker- and then by extension a Linguaphile. My forte is in storytelling – typically of the factual kind.  I also love to write letters and notes. I’m completely confident I have written what would be the equivalent of a tome, during high school years to my various schoolmates.

Ironically, I’ve never really considered myself a ‘writer’ – storyteller, maybe – but ‘writer’? No.  Most of the people I know who are serious writers have, in fact, written at least one book or a series of short stories. They have multiple ideas for other books and are constantly scribbling out ideas for future novels.  Me? Not so much. I’ve heard plenty of people say “you should write a book” – and then I ruminate over that and my mind goes completely blank.  I had not one iota of an idea about a book to write.  Nada.  Because, like I stated above, I didn’t fancy myself as a ‘writer’. I have a lot of stories but nothing book worthy.

For years I contented myself with the joys of being an email-whore.  It filled the desire to write, relate stories and use language.  It also allowed me to communicate with people who also appreciated and wrote a good multi-paragraphed email.  Then a couple, three years ago, my friend at Mended Musings confided in me that she was writing a blog – at the time it was anonymous – and might I be interested in reading some of her posts?  Well of course I was – she was one of the people that I wrote with in high school.  And so I did – and with some encouragement – started my own blog.

It was a wonderful venue for my style of writing- I got to relate my stories, voice opinions and read a whole lotta great blogs on WordPress. I threw myself into it full force.  I have definitely grown as a storyteller and, dare I say, a writer. However, I have to admit, I’ve been writing less and less since November 2013.  On some level, my stories have been told, on another, I have a bad habit of having about 3 month’s enthusiasm for most anything I have developed an interest in (and I was a steady blogger for almost 3 years!).   I worried I was drying up – that my brain was unable to really write anything ‘post worthy’ and fresh. So many talented people out there writing essentially what I was thinking of writing – and articulating it better. I didn’t want to waste space for the sake of just writing something.  But then I realized that something a little different was happening – my dried up brain was actually getting IDEAS.

Along with those ideas, I was getting a tremendous amount of encouragement from my friends Sharon Kay Penman and Ted Schredd to WRITE A BOOK.   Just the thought made my stomach ache.  That is a lot of pressure – TO WRITE A BOOK.  It’s a long term project that takes discipline, talent, patience, A STORY, and planning.  All those things I wasn’t sure I had enough of.  But I take some of that back…I did have a little story germinating in my brain.  Sharon suggested that I pick I topic I love and write about it. Ted advised that I just spend a little bit everyday working on something.  I have put those two things together and I’ve arrived at where I am today.

So, after 708 introductory words, I shall begin the ANSWERING OF THE QUESTIONS…

1)      What am I working on?

A BOOK! Yes, I’m working on a book – and this is the FIRST time I’ve publically put that out there. I started in May and have faithfully been dedicating a little bit of everyday towards the research, plot, and character development.   I’m deep enough into this process to feel like I can actually say that I’m going to write a book.   The only hint I will give away about it, at this point, is that it’s going to be a historical fiction novel – 14th century England.  Just the research, alone, for the time period, is daunting to me. I’m better acquainted with life in the 12th-13th centuries, but I wanted to write a little bit outside of my comfort zone and learn some new things along the way.   At this point, I’ve got a plot and my major characters are well on their way to being developed. I cannot wait to meet them on paper and see how they grow.

2)      How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Um… this is a stumper…  I don’t know if I have an answer to that. I am going into this as a storyteller in hopes that my style of writing, which people tell me is very ‘conversational’, shines through and enhances the story.  Whether this differs from others of its genre remains to be seen – at this point I just want to succeed in writing a book. One step at a time.

3)      Why do I write/create what I do?

For my blog, I found it a great venue for telling the various stories I’ve told to people for my entire life.  I also love the conversations these stories generate and the ability to use them as a way to meet new and interesting people.

Why I’m writing a book? I think because I finally have a story to tell and hopefully more. I also want to experience the process and maybe, just maybe, I will find something within myself that I never knew I had.  I also hope to get to England – and that is my goal if, a year down the road, this project has taken off and looks to be a life changer, I will go to England so I can experience the places that I’m writing about.

 

4)      How does my writing/creating process work?

Many years ago, at age 13, I was learning how to ski. I found myself on my first blue square trail, utterly terrified and overwhelmed at the sheer drop over the edge to start the run that seemed to go on forever. I stood there, frozen.  My friend’s father skied up beside me and asked if I was OK. I told him, because I’m a brutally honest person, that I was terrified. The run looked too steep and too long.  He gave me the best advice of my entire life – he told me to stop looking at the entire mountain, and just concentrate on 5 feet in front of me.  That did it. I went over the edge and skied that run.  Over the years, I’ve found that advice to work for most anything that overwhelms me. This book project is no different.  I’ve decided that every day, I will devote to doing a little something.  I made a list (I love lists) of the things I needed to do and just try to do them.  I have given myself a year – I knew that the first few months would be solely about research – not only am I writing a book (which is its own process) but I’m having to learn about a completely different culture.  As I started reading up on 14th century England, my brain started coming up with ideas for fleshing out the plot and the characters. I’m trying to just give myself a manageable schedule without any sort of deadline (except a year) – and am waiting to see how things develop.

The most interesting aspect of this process is for every plot or character trait idea, I have to actually research to see if it was something credible for that time period.  And the more I learn about that time period, the more I ideas I have about the plot.

I want to kiss the entire internet every day – because I could not do half of what I’m doing without it. I also am very grateful to the public library and Inter Library Loan – it’s a godsend.  And, most of all, I’m grateful for my family and friends who are supporting me with tons of encouragement.  My husband is willing to listen and give feedback on any number of plot lines I talk about. And, for some bewildering reason, people are taking this venture seriously. Which makes it so much more real to me.

So, in essence, for me – my creative process works because I am able to take small, realistic steps, and talk everything out.  Talking has always been my way of working through any number of problems and it still works here.

 

Phew – that was long winded, eh?   And now I want to invite three amazing writers to participate –  Three is such a small amount – I have a whole huge LIST of people I admire – but three is the number of which I was told to choose…so three it must be.

I’m not picking out any particular post of these three because you can find ANY post they have written and be ‘wowed’  – they have that much talent.  And  that’s a lot of talent.   These are three bloggers that I have connected with on some level. And for me, that’s the most important thing.  So go there and read them. You’ll thank me immediately.

 

    • List of X from, uh, List of X!  He is such an engaging & funny Russian List of X. And that should be enough to recommend him highly. But seriously, he’s really clever and anyone that makes me laugh is much admired in my eyes.
    •  Mike Calahan from B.L.O.G.  – Mike is just straight up FUNNY – a talented and engaging writer who loves to tell a good story from his youth. He’s my kinda guy.  He makes me want to use the word “adorbs” when describing him. He’s thoroughly adorbs.
    • No list is complete without Emily from The Waiting.  I’m pretty sure Emily has probably been invited to this ride before. She’s a big deal in the WordPress world o’wonder – but I’m listing her anyway!  I hope she has time to join us if she’s not done so already.  She’s been a busy, busy, busy woman making her mark in the world at her new gig.
Posted in Blogging, Childhood, connections, Humor, Language, love, News, Philosophy, Random Thoughts, Relationships, Sharon K Penmen, Story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Sploosh Ball Wars – Therapy In Action

Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher:

Hi All –
Most of you have probably seen this post – but it’s been featured on Crazy Good Parent today! Come check this fabbo blog out.

Originally posted on Crazy Good Parent:

First off,  Thank you for inviting me to post on Crazy Good Parent – I’m deeply honored to be associated with such a great blog.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

We have a round pool. An above ground round pool. It is much, much, much fun. We’ve had these kind of stanchion pools for years now – and having a pool available in the Tucson’s summer heat is most desirable.

One of the ‘things’ we like to do in our round pool is creating a whirlpool. Basically, it’s just running or jumping around the perimeter of the pool until you create a whirlpool. It’s even better when we pull the ladder into the middle of the pool, so no one ends up with a huge bruise on their body from ramming into the ladder – because we can accomplish that bruise running into the filter nozzles.

When sploosh…

View original 475 more words

Posted in Humor | 2 Comments

Whirlpool Sploosh Ball Wars Update

Greetings People,

I know it’s been a while since I posted.  There’s actually a reason, besides the obvious one, that my brain no longer works correctly.  I, too, was worried about that for a while ~  But stay tuned, all will be revealed in a couple of weeks.

However, that said – I wanted to send an update on our Sploosh Ball Wars Therapy.  All is going just ducky.  We’ve not been in the pool as often as we’d like due to some unexpected things – such as neck & thumb injuries from other over-exuberant play…but we are both mended and ready for action.   However, every time we’re in, we play a round of Sploosh Ball Wars and it still makes us laugh and keeps us chummy.  My son is definitely less tense – and I am convinced it’s due to very exuberant play, which is encouraged at his summer camp, that is making all the difference.

There’s a lot of talk at camp about the importance of ‘rough and tumble play’ which is different from being aggressive. The theory is that children are playing as they naturally would, without parents hoovering over them trying to control for any instance of ‘harm’ or aggression. They learn important lessons about building emotional intelligence, learning to distinguish between aggression and roughhousing, engaging in the joys of moving around naturally, being more physically engaged with their bodies and learning to read social cues of their playmates during a game. Personally, I would find it very frustrating if all my movements were constantly forestalled by anxious-hoovering adults and THAT might make me more aggressive than any play I was engaging with amongst friends.  Children playing in a natural way are less likely to hurt themselves than those always having to modify all their movements to conform to adult’s worries about ‘rough play’.  When we second guess ourselves, we are less confident and more likely to hurt ourselves.

At any rate, from my point-of-view, I am enjoying our summer in the pool together – I’ve dropped 12 lbs, my son is starting to develop more muscle tone and refining his eye-hand coordination. Like I stated before, he seems less likely to lose his temper outside of the pool and has developed a bit more patience.  These things might not all be related to Sploosh Ball Wars/exuberant play, but I would be willing to bet some of it is.

So my words o’wisdom would be GO OUT AND PLAY!

 

Posted in Childhood, Children, Family, Health, Injury, Mental Health, Parenting, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Jesu Forfend – Quit! Quit!

I find it odd that in our culture if, for example, a football player breaks a body part during a game, and continues to play, we laud that as ‘admirable’. They pushed through the pain, and possible permanent bodily damage, all in the name of the sport.  Afterwards did they abandon the game forever? Probably not.

How many people out there have fallen off their bicycles at some point? I’d guess most everyone that’s been on one has. I sure have. Barring some horrific accident, did you quit, forever, riding your bike because of one fall? I sure didn’t.

Hockey players – I bet they hardly EVER get hurt. Hee hee – I absolutely did when I played… a lot (there is something alluring about that kind of rough physical contact, but that’s for another post or trip to the therapist). However, at the first instance of being checked to the boards I didn’t quit nor did anyone encourage me to do so (well, maybe my Mom).   The same goes for playing soccer – which I always found to be MORE dangerous than hockey because soccer players are less padded and inevitably deliver a viscous kick to the shins now and then.

Overall, people engage in a variety of physical activities, and in each and every one of them there are injuries and pain that sometimes occur. And, like I wrote above, barring some sort of catastrophic accident or injury, most people accept that being active can result in physical discomfort from time to time. And most likely we will heal and are encouraged to ‘get back in the game’.  Of course there’s the saying: When you fall off the horse, you have to get back on. Unless, of course, it’s crushed your legs – then maybe dial 911.

There seems to be one exception.

Yoga.

Apparently, that’s one horse we should run from.

For some reason that I cannot fathom, if you so much as stub your toe on a mat, people will advise you to quit doing Yoga. It’s dangerous.

Heaven help you if your friend finds out you’re a little stiff from a particularly intense class. OH MY GOD, YOUR THIGHS ARE SORE FROM TRIANGLE POSE? JESU FORFEND! QUIT! QUIT! RIGHT NOW!! YOU’RE GOING TO HARM YOURSELF PERMANENTLY!

And then, if you’re lucky, you get a laundry list recited to you of every Yoga-induced-injury ever had by your friend, anyone that your friend knows, or injuries of the friends of the friends of the friends . Because, you know, no one ever gets hurt during any other form of physical activity.

I don’t understand this at all. Should I break my arm playing hockey and continue my shift, I’m a hero. But if I strain my thumb during Bikram’s Locust Pose, I should throw in the towel right then and there.  Go figure.

If I quit every physical activity in which I had some sort of painful incident, believe me, I’d never leave my bed. In fact, I’ve hurt myself getting OUT of bed and banged my shins on the bed frame getting INTO bed. Should I consider giving up sleeping?  I’ve tripped too many times to count just WALKING.  But somehow I find the resources within me to solider on. And no one has ever suggested I ‘give it up’.  So why do people freak out about getting an injury from Yoga?

I’m open to any and all thoughts.

Yup - that's me

Yup – that’s me

 

Posted in Biking, Bikram Yoga, Health, Humor, Injury, Random Thoughts, Society, Yoga | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Whirlpool Sploosh Ball Wars – Therapy in Action

We have a round pool. An above ground round pool. It is much, much, much fun. We’ve had these kind of stanchion pools for years now – and having a pool available in the Tucson’s summer heat is most desirable.

One of the ‘things’ we like to do in our round pool is creating a whirlpool. Basically, it’s just running or jumping around the perimeter of the pool until you create a whirlpool. It’s even better when we pull the ladder into the middle of the pool, so no one ends up with a huge bruise on their body from ramming into the ladder – because we can accomplish that bruise running into the filter nozzles.

When sploosh or splash balls started becoming popular, we added them to the chaos of whirlpooling.  Then we started the phenomena of “Sploosh Ball Wars” – which is basically hurling sploosh balls at each other whilst constantly moving around the whirlpool. You have to be 1/4 to 1/2 way away from the person being bombed and no nasty, intentional hits to the face. However, unintentional face hits are totally legal and laughter is allowed. Nothing is done in meanness – it’s all in good fun and makes for great exercise.  I guarantee that you will have an 8:30PM sleeping kid if you engage in at least 60 minutes of “Sploosh Ball Wars”.

But that’s not what I’m really writing about today- what I want to discuss is something interesting that came out of my 11 year old son’s mouth (as opposed to some of the crazy stuff he often says). As we were moving beaning each other with Sploosh Balls yesterday, he said “Mom, this is probably really good therapy”.  And after thinking about it – I think I agree.

We have gotten to the point in our relationship where we tend to argue a bit – and my son is starting to approach his pre-teen-angst-years and puberty, and is very frustrated that we boss him around. He feels cheated that he cannot boss us around (well, duh, that’s the point!). So we are going to see if semi-daily/daily rounds of Sploosh Ball Wars improves our relationship.  I think he’s on to something – there is nothing quite like getting to bean each other (with love and laughter) with Sploosh Balls and getting a lot of good exercise to drain one of negative feelings. Every time we engage in this fun game, we leave the pool with really great attitudes. We feel relaxed and chummy towards each other and I’ve noticed that we do argue less and listen to each other more.  Last night, after Sploosh Ball Wars, my son was a bit snippy with me because he was angry at his father – but he came up to me (all on his own) and apologized with a big kiss and then told his father he was sorry and explained his frustrations (in a written letter – which is awesome). Son and father worked it out and the evening was very pleasant for all.

So that is the experiment this summer – to see if Sploosh Ball Wars will help ease the road of 11 year old male puberty.  I suggest a good pair of sturdy sunglasses, about 20 Sploosh Balls and some noodles. That should put you on the road to summer fun. Oh yes, and a pool – a round pool.

I will report periodically throughout the summer on our Sploosh Ball War Therapy.

Can this treat pre-teen angst and puberty?  I'm banking on it!

Can this treat pre-teen angst and puberty? I’m banking on it!

 

 

This is an addendum – My heart is heavy as I have just read that Rik Mayall has passed away. He is one of my favorite British comedians and was just amazing on The Young Ones.

Rick: Honestly, I don’t know why I bother sometimes.
Vyvyan: I don’t know why you bother ever.
– The Young Ones

 

Posted in Childhood, Children, coping mechanisms, Family, Health, Humor, Mental Health, Parenting, Philosophy, Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments