Sunday, July 4, 2010

Obento: My Newfound Curiosity

Just a quick note:  
On many of my blog posts you'll see little icons which are part of a really cool application I use for links to items of reference pertaining to the subject matter.  Many of these you don't even have to click on.  You can often just place your cursor over it and a small box will pop up with the relevant information, video, photo, or website so that you can explore without actually leaving my blog post.  Ain't that special? Try it out here!

Anybody who knows anything about the Butterfly Queen knows that cooking is a passion.  I love cooking even more than I love eating.  Really, it's true.  During these last few weeks, I've gone silent pretty much here on the blog space for several reasons you can read about here: Domo Arigato Mr. Obento.  For the sake of not boring those of you loyal friends who subscribe, I won't re-hash all of that here.
Suffice to say, I've been rather busy.  Too busy to have the brainpower to write, too busy to have the patience to check-in, and too busy to have the desire to cook!
But a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe that let me to a blog site on cooking written by a Japanese woman living in Switzerland.  She specializes in recipes from Japan and Korea, with a lil' bit of fusion mixed in for good measure.  Fascinated by her lovely photos and recipes, I found myself cruising her site for hours at a time, night after night...into the wee hours when my guys were happily sleeping.  There were many recipes which she specified were perfect for Bento.  Recipe after recipe I kept seeing the phrase "perfect for Bento", with a link to her other blog site where she touted she writes specifically for the art of Obento.


Obento (the "o" is optional and denotes the respected or honored reference to the art), in summary is the Japanese tradition of artfully packed boxes containing single-portion meals usually carried for lunch, picnics, etc... The foods packed revolve around the traditional "anatomy" of a Japanese meal.

What appeals to me on first impression, is the idea that preparing lunches in these boxes is a great way to practice portion control if you're on a diet.  You can only fit in these Bento boxes what fits in them.  You can see quite easily the size of your portions and the proportion of one course to the other... for example 1/4 of a meal should be protein, 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 grains.   On a plate, it is much harder to eyeball these proportions.  I love the idea of having a fun way to be more conscious of what we consume without feeling like I'm on a diet.  Diets suck.  I don't do them anymore.  I'm also on a personal mission to enjoy my life, just as I am, with what I've got instead of being on the perpetual treadmill of "If only I were thinner, If only I were richer, If only I were more successful..."   I am healing myself of that oh-too-common illness that seems to be plaguing most people these days.  I'm going to enjoy this life, rejoicing in each day, and all that it brings.  Can I get an "Amen" or an "Ashe'"?

The next thing that appeals to me is the idea of Umami... which is a term now used in the west, but borrowed from the Japanese... it is the 5th taste experience besides those we are commonly familiar with (sweet, salty, bitter, sour).  It is best described as "savory"  I suppose.  Umami is said to be the one universally loved taste sensation and is said to be found in all of your favorite foods.  My own personal theory is that it is a combination of the other four tastes... a perfect balance of the four.   I just love to say it... "Ooh, Mommy".  Ain't that good???  I love it! Ha!


Thirdly, it just looks like so much fun!!!  Anybody can do it.  You can pack them however you like, with whatever you like, with a few practical precautions.  It's a fantastic way to use up leftovers which is a wonderful way to live a little greener and a great excuse for cooking at home without worrying that you're only feeding yourself. It's fashionable, exotic as you want it to be, artistic, and will save money by avoiding all those calorie packed, sodium packed, sugar packed, fat packed lunches bought out!  They can be hot, cold, or both in multiple tiered boxes. There's the more traditional style lunches which are beautiful to the eye (they consider this just as important as the taste and nutrition),


and then there's the Kawaii (this means cute or adorable)versions which I know the Austrian and the Pyrate will boycott but Miss Scantlebury will no doubt be head over heels for.   Either way, I've found another way to express my creativity and I'm very excited to give it a whirl.


Anyway, are you inspired?  I'm going to start my first Bentos this week.  They will not all be traditional Japanese ingredients. But there will be lots of Japanese influences, and some recipes I've borrowed from the Just Bento site, while I'm learning how this works.  I'm already marinating some chicken skewers in a soy/ginger/lemon/pepper flake marinade which will be grilled, and a pork shoulder with will be slow-roasted with a fresh red chili salsa.  These will be used throughout the week in different ways.  Salads, sandwiches, pastas, omelettes... you'll see!  It's gonna be a fun week!!

from:  www.mosaica.wordpress.com

If you are planning on giving this a try, I suggest you do the following:
1.  Visit the Just Bento site and read the following: Bento Basics and when you're done read the first few links at the bottom of that page to find out what equipment you'll need.  There's not much... a bento box, a rice cooker, a few inexpensive accessories.
2.  Start to acquire your equipment.  There are four of us, so I've got 6 boxes of varying sizes. If you decide to use regular plastic food containers, look for BPA free please.  Yes, I am still going to try to practice healthy, organic, sustainable living while on this adventure. We already have a rice cooker.  I'm going to get a pressure cooker this week.  I also got some optional accessories such as silicone muffin cups, little plastic picks. Miniature sauce bottles and mayonaise cups are also handy lil' things to have.  You can find most rare Japanese accessories for bento online here or here. Try the first link first because the prices can't be beat.  Be sure to get microwavable bento boxes please so you have more versatility with what you can put in it.
3. Take a look at basic pantry staples to have on hand:  Soy Sauce, Mirin, Japanese Sushi Rice (brown and/or white) are commonly used in almost every traditional Japanese or Japanese inspired Bento lunch.  No other rice will substitute. (more on that later...)

One more thing I should mention:  I have a seafood allergy... a challenge in regards to any Asian cuisine... But feel free to browse the other web blogs for seafood recipes... you won't find them here!

I'll be back in a couple days with my first attempt and a couple recipes to add to your arsenal!  Have a great holiday!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Domo Arigato Mister Obento

Well, I know I've been MIA lately, but you know how it is... The end of the school year, plus a bunch of other stuff going on in my home life and next thing you know the time flies by and I haven't written a thing!!

At least not here!
One of the things I'm working on is bit by bit piecing together my very first cookbook.  It will be a tribute to my family heritage, which mixes the cuisines and traditions of several cultures, and includes organically grown, (often homegrown) foods.
I'm having fun with the introductory outline which tells about my childhood memories of road trips to grandma's house fully equipped with picnic basket in tow and  my other grandmother's home garden which provided the vegetables for the entire family for most of each year. I know that the stories and recipes from this project will resonate with many of you.   Stay tunes for further updates on that project!
In the spring, I made the careful decision to terminate the Pyrate's public school attendance and homeschool him as of the fall this year.  I spent several weeks contemplating this decision, researching our options and the possible consequences.  Several disturbing events over the last two years brought enough alarm to my mind that in some ways I almost felt there is no other choice.  I worried about the social implications for the Pyrate, however, the social implications if he stays in the environment he has been in will no question be catastrophic.  Then two things happened.  We have found a fantastic virtual academy that will suit his needs as an individual, with teachers, personalized lessons, access to college courses in high school, and so much more that a kid like mine will shine thorugh like a super nova!  I can't wait.  I believe every child deserves to have this kind of opportunity.  I showed this program to my son, and he loves it, and can't wait to get started.  I started the enrollment process, had several conversations with families already doing this, and started collecting the proper documents... That was the second thing.  I had to retrieve documentation of the Pyrate's status for California's Gifted and Talented student program.   It's one thing to know you have a brilliant child.  It is quite another to hold in your hand documentation that measures said brilliance.  He's documented to have scored within the top 3 percentile FOR THE NATION all of the last three years in a row on standardized and specialized testing for skills and mastery in math, language arts, and science.  When we got this documentation the other day, we sat together staring at it as I explained it to him.  We sat staring at it silently.  I watched his eyes, wide and almost in disbelief.  I asked him what he was thinking.   "I'm thinking I can't wait to be out of regular public school, mom.  It's killing my reputation!"
So that was it.  I completed his enrollment and we're waiting for the curriculum to get here like kids wait for Christmas morning.  Meanwhile I'm getting myself accustomed to being the learning coach.  He'll have teachers online, but I still have to supervise and coach on the home front, plan his schedule, come up with creative ways to experience the world as it pertains to his studies.  This will be fun, so long as I properly prepare.  I'm taking the time to attend lectures and recorded speaker series on how to do all of this.
If you too are discouraged with trusting your child's education to a public system that is more damaging than it is productive, check out homeschooling.  It's not what it used to be.  You can still get certified to teach your own children if you like. But now there are virtual schools with experienced teachers who are excited, inspiring, creative, and give their students one on one attention.  There are virtual schools where most work is done online and the curriculum is more effective than what is available in public schools.  Virtual schools offer personalized instruction based on mastery.  That means if the Pyrate can pass a lesson's assessment, he can skip all of the lesson activities in that lesson and move to the next lesson.  He can accelerate in this way, to the next grade level mid year if applicable, and in high school can take classes that are worth college credit.  We can set his study schedule to fit his personal rhythm, and include outside experiences that enrich his learning in ways he would never get in regular public schools.  And here's the killer!  Most of these virtual academies are set up like charter schools, publicly funded, and free to those who are within the district that funds them.  Not only is it tuition free, they provide all curriculum materials, and loaner computers as well for free.  All you have to provide is an adult to supervise 5-6 hours a day, and regular school supplies such and notebooks and paper, etc.
A great example is the K12 program with academies nationwide.  Check it out for yourself.

The third thing I'm up to is fun, fun, fun!!  I'm learning about the art of Bento!  This is a traditional Japanese practice that involves artfully arranged meals packed in compact boxes that are usually transportable.  We are going to use the art of Obento (the respectful way to refer to the art) as a fun and entertaining way to institute healthy eating habits into our everyday life.  I've been educating myself and preparing to make it a part of our family's nutritional life.  You'll be finding recipes and photo records of this little gastro-artistic adventure posted here in my blog in the very near future.  Should you want to join me, I recommend these two blogs as reference material and  inspiration:  www.justbento.com  and  www.lunchinabox.net 

See you here again very soon when I've got my bento boxes, chopsticks and a couple of recipes under my belt... this stuff is no joke!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lemon-Ginger-Soy Stir Fry

Mmmmmmm!  This dish was a pure improvisation tonight!!   You will not be disappointed. 
You'll need a wok or a decent sized skillet/saute pan for this preparation and a hungry stomach!! The trick to stir frying is a very hot pan, a good oil with a high smoking point, and your ingredients in approximately the same sizes.


The Players:
2 Boneless Chicken Breasts please use organic, hormone/antibiotic free, free range chicken or just go veggie... seriously people... cut these into 1 inch cubes. Soy Sauce low sodium, about 1/4 cup.  Fresh Ginger  about a 2 inch piece cut into chunks. Fresh Garlic 10 cloves.  Lemon Juice from two organic lemons.  Five Spice 1 tablespoon.  White Rice Wine Vinegar 1/4 cup. 1 large Red Onion  cut into 1 inch cubes1 bunch Green Onions organic, white and green parts cut into one inch pieces 1 Green Bell Pepper cut into 1 inch pieces. Snow Peas  about a good handful left whole. Sesame Oil

Preparation:
1.  Prepare ingredients as instructed above.
2.  In a food processor add ginger, soy sauce, garlic, lemon juice, five spice, and rice wine vinegar and process on high til well blended and fairly smooth.
3.  Pour this mixture over chicken in a plastic container, cover, and allow to marinate at least 1 hour or more.
4.  When ready to cook, heat wok over high heat til it begins to smoke. 
5.  Add about 4 tablespoons of sesame oil to hot wok.  Don't worry if it smokes.  You want it to smoke.  Turn on your fan! :)  Let the oil smoke a minute or two until it starts to turn.
6.  Add cubes of chicken to the hot wok reserving the marinade for later.
7.  Brown chicken in wok stirring occasionally for even cooking.
8.  Remove from wok and return to the marinade.
9.  Add 3 tablespoons more oil to the pan.
10.  Allow to come to a smoking point again.
11.  Add remaining vegetables and stir fry just til the colors brighten and they start to get gentle caramelization.
12.  Add chicken and marinade to the wok at this point and toss together.  Allow to cook another 4 minutes, occasionally tossing and stirring.

13.  Serve with steamed rice.

YUM YUM!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Story of Stuff.

I'm gonna show this to the Pyrate today when he gets home from school.  I hope that this will impact him in a way that motivates him to participate more cooperatively with things like... making sure to put the darn re-usable grocery bags back in my car so that the next time we go shopping, we don't have to use those awful bags that cause such a horrible mess in the oceans he wants to work in as a marine biologist when he grows up.  He and his 13 year old mind sometimes has bigger fish to fry, such as this month's crush, or how dope that olly was that he impressed his friends with.  I can't tell you how many times we get to the store and I look in the trunk and there's no bags.  grrrr!
Anyway, I digress.

Below, there is a video that I received in my email inbox this morning in celebration of Earth Day.  Please, please PLEASE watch it.  It's 20 minutes out of your day.  Just 20 minutes.  But if you allow it to sink into your brain, perhaps you will be changed inside and an awareness... an awakening will begin to occur inside of you.

It's a short film about our non-sustainable way of living... it's about our planet and all our stuff.

Now, I know some of you will say that one person doesn't make a difference.  But I want to tell you that this is a lie, and I love you but it's lazy and irresponsible to drink that koolaid.  Please let me tell you very quickly, of a very personal example of how much of a difference you can make.

A few weeks ago I watched the film Food Inc. and one of the things I immediately decided that day is that from now on, when I buy milk for the pyrate's breakfast cereal, and baking, (i don't really drink it otherwise), I would only buy organic milk from cows not treated with rbst or rbgt (hormones to make them  produce unnaturally vulgar amounts of milk to get more milk from less cows to save money on backend expenses and boost profits).  The first time I looked for organic non-treated milk on my local grocer's dairy shelf, 3 weeks ago.   I looked closely at the labels of all the milk cartons and bottles.   I almost accidentally picked up one brand because it had a little shield printed on it where it said something like, "There is no evidence to show a difference in the milk from cows treated with rbst's or rbgt's".
Yes, just like that, the real message in tiny letters, the hormone initials in bold to trick you into thinking it's a hormone free brand.
On the contrary it was just the opposite, trying to belay the fears of the consumer should they take the time to actually pick up the container and squint to read what it really says.    I always tell the pyrate, that we are striving to be a SUCKA FREE FAMILY.  He enjoys saying his mama don't raise no fool... and the Austrian?   He, with his small European mountain village sensibility, chuckles with amusement at both of us.
So, anyway, thanks for your patience, and let me get to the point,  there was only one lone brand there on the shelves, from Iowa... yes, all the way from Iowa.  Did you know California is one of the nation's biggest producers of  fruits, vegetables, and dairy products that supply a great deal of our country and the demands of others as well??? Yet the only organic milk on the shelf came from thousands of miles away.  So begrudgingly, I bought it, even though I'm also on a local foods kick, because it's more environmentally sound, and even though it was a little more expensive. I felt a little discouraged and wondered if these big companies would even care whether or not I buy their poisoned milk when everybody else is too lazy to care.  But I stood my ground and bought the more expensive out-of-state imported milk to let these companies know that they can't have my money.
BUT WAIT!  Here's the punchline!  Last week I went to the same store and we needed more milk, so I went over to the dairy section and was to grab the same Iowa brand.  It just so happened that there was a store employee there stocking the milk shelves and she overheard the pyrate and I discussing how ridiculous it was that there was no California produced organic milk available.  The stock lady butted in our conversation suddenly with a cheerful smile, and informed us that she just filled an entire shelf with organic milk from California cows with no hormone treatment.  She said this was a new shipment and the first of its kind that she'd seen in that store from not just California dairies, but from SOUTHERN California dairies all within 100 miles of our neighborhood.
My little consumer stand for what I believe in DID make a difference, when added together with others in my community who obviously also made some sort of a stand and boycotted the milk from hormone treated cows!!!  This was an exciting moment, and I'm just talking about a carton of milk here in one store, in one city.   There is so much more to be done.

I don't want to waste a moment more of your time with my babbling on about milk.  This video is not about milk, it's about living.  Please, do me the favor and watch this video all the way through to the end with an open heart, then afterwards share this blog with your friends on all your social network accounts, through your emails, and however else you can.
Please share it with your children because it is their world that is being affected, so they should be involved, like the pyrate, who is, for example in charge of recycling, composting, and making sure the doggone re-usable grocery bags get returned to the car for the next visit to the store.
Make a difference in your own life and that of those you care for and share what you know and do something about it.
Just scroll to the bottom of this page, and stop my music player then come back here and click the"story of stuff" link below to start the video!
Much love, and Happy Earth Day!!  Brig

the story of stuff




******************

 

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Movie in the Making...

Be a part of this very special project headed up by my friend, singer/songwriter/score composer/film director (yes, and so much more) Patsy Moore
*You'll need to scroll to the bottom of my blog page and turn off my music player there.*

A REAL FEEL-GOOD PIECE OF WORK from Patsy Moore on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hot Wings Mexicana! Ole!

Alright, no picture for this one, but let me just tell you, this was an absolute improvised meal this evening.  Marinated and grilled chicken wings drenched in the combined flavor of lime, tequila, cilantro, and salsa verde.  You will LOVE these wings if you love hot wings, and my wings are healthier, made from fresh, flavorful, organic ingredients.  You may never feel the same about traditional hot wings once you try these, spicy, tart, finger licking good wings.  

The Players
2 pounds of organic, free range, vegetarian fed, hormone free Chicken Wings.  The juice of 4 Limes.  5 cloves of fresh Garlic. 1 bunch of fresh Cilantro (about 1 cup chopped coarsely, stems discarded).  4 tbsps of Olive Oil.  1/2 cup of Tequila.  1 16 oz container of fresh Salsa Verde (from the refrigerator deli section of your local grocer... I like to get it from a latino foods store such as Vallarta if possible.) 1/3 cup organic, raw Honey.  1 tbsp. spicy Mexican Hot Sauce (such as Cholula, Pico Pica, etc... NO TABASCO!)


Instructions:
Wash wings well, and allow to drain on paper towels.

Add lime juice, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, tequila and salsa verde together in a food processor and process til well blended and the cilantro is finely minced and incorporated.

Place the wings in a container and pour the marinade over them.  
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.  

Grill wings over medium to low heat, basting occasionally with the retained marinade, until skins are nice and brown and crispy, and the meat begins to pull away from the end of the bone on the drummettes.

Remove wings to a platter or shallow ad wide serving bowl.  

In a medium sauce pan, bring remaining marinade to a boil over medium heat. 

Add honey, vinegar, and hot sauce, simmer over low heat for 5 minutes longer. 

Pour this sauce over the wings and serve!!

If you find these to be too spicy, you can serve these with a cooling dip made from equal parts ranch dressing mixed to equal parts sour cream.

Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vanilla Birthday Cake


All dressed up for the Pyrate's 13th birthday party!!! This full sheet version requires 6 times the recipe below.

This buttery delish cake will not disappoint.  I made it for the first time a few weeks ago for the Pyrate's birthday dinner and everyone loved it!  I filled it with sun-sweet fresh organic strawberries and bavarian cream using vegetable gelatin instead of traditional gelatin, and a butter cream frosting on the outside with a few drops of organic vegetable food colors to represent the concrete color of the "skate park".  The sprinkles are from a local cake decorating supply store... they are simply gold, silver, and dark green sugar crystals.   You can frost or glaze this cake however you like, or not at all!  It's wonderful on its own, or even with a few berries macerated in a tablespoon or so of demerara sugar to release their juice and make a light syrup.  As I was decorating this cake we snacked on the uneven edges I'd trimmed off before frosting. De-lish!


The best cake recipes I've had usually call for cake flour which basically is bleached all purpose flour that has been sifted 7 times, so to stay on point, I took my unbleached flour through a sifter 7 times.  It only took a couple minutes to do this and the light fluffy texture of the cake is worth the effort.  
This recipe is for two 9 inch round cake layers.  For the double decker full sheet cake I made above we multiplied this recipe by three for each layer so a total of 6 times the recipe.    Unless you have a restaurant style kitchen setup I don't recommend trying to do more than a triple batch of batter at once.  You can easily end up over mixing and your cake will be like a brick!  DON'T DO IT!!  You'll be sorry if you go to all the trouble to make those huge layers and discover it's dry and tough and not like you want it.  Stick with 3 or less multiplied batches at a time.  

Here we go! 

VANILLA BIRTHDAY CAKE 

The players:

1 3/4 cups Unbleached Organic White Flour sifted 7 times. 2 tsp Baking Powder. 1/4 tsp Sea Salt. 1/2 cups Unsalted Organic Butter.  1 cup Turbinado, Demerara, or Evaporated Cane Juice.   2 Organic free range brown Eggs, whites and yolks separated.  1 tsp pure Vanilla extract. 1/2 cup Organic 2 % Milk. 1/8 tsp Cream of Tartar.



The plan:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously butter two 9 inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom of pans with parchment paper then butter paper as well.
1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. 
2. In an electric mixer bowl, beat butter til soft. 
3. Add 3/4 of sugar to butter and beat again til fluffy
4. Add yolks 1 at a time. 
5. Add vanilla and beat til combined. 
6. Add flour and milk alternately in 3 additions beginning and ending with flour. 
7. In another bowl, whisk egg whites til foamy. 
8. Add cream of tartar & beat whites til soft peaks form. 
9. Gradually add the rest of the sugar to egg whites and beat til stiff peaks form.
10. Fold about a third of the whites into the batter to lighten up the batter. 
11. Fold in another third til just mixed in. 
12. Fold in the rest of the whites into the batter being careful not to over mix. 
13. Fill pans and smooth the surfaces with an offset spatula. 
14. Bake on the center rack in your preheated oven for about 15 minutes then check with a toothpick in the center.  If it comes out clean it's done.
15.  Cool in pan at least half an hour before inverting onto rack to cool completely.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Deacon Fielder Strikes Again...Boston Fielder and his Muthawit Orchestra


I came to be acquainted with the inimitable Boston Fielder about half a decade ago, believe it or not, on Myspace.  I'd been writing a blog there while promoting my music and building up a following which consisted of myspacers worldwide.  We were mutual fans of each others music.  

At some point I'd posted a blog chronicling a particularly challenging period in my journey and the next day, in my inbox there was this message from him... It was raw, straightforward, scolding, as if he'd ordained himself an authority on the subject of Brig Feltus, and it was a profound moment for me.   I'm telling you this up front because there's no use in pretending to be unbiased when it comes to Boston Fielder, the Muthawit Orchestra, or Underground Railroad Broadcasting Alternatives, aka URB ALT.   We have been devoted friends for longer than linear time can define.  We knew each other in another lifetime even.  I'm sure of it.  I am a proud member of the URB ALT Family.  

 I'm telling you up front because though this is meant to spread the word about the art this man creates, it is unabashedly personal.  Let my honesty about this fact represent my confidence that what you will experience will more than justify my love of all things Muthawit!
So by all means, explore for yourself when you're done here.  You'll find me to be an honest report on the virtues of the man and his art.  I am confident of that much. 
The music of Muthawit Orchestra will not be contained in the structure of conventional musical genre descriptions.  But, oh... it is in every way music, encompassing all genres and none all at once... neo-classic, jazz, rock, funk, bluegrass, gospel, experimental, metal, psychedelic, blues, electronica...and it's own indescribable something-or-other which can only be experienced and never explained.  You can forget about trying to put this man's art into a box and tying it up in a nice neat bow.  If there is any thematic, that be it. 

You will be challenged.  You will be challenged to free your mind, to let go of your own preconditioning, break loose of the chains of stereotype, archetype, and cultural characterization.   The Muthawit orchestra's sound is beautiful noise that will touch your most guttural conscience and your most ethereal dream scapes as well.  It is frightening and sexy and comforting and confusing truth all wrapped up in compositions you can relate to despite your own conditioning.  If you are afraid of your tail feathers shaking, do not listen.  If you are afraid of arousal, do not listen.  If you fear your own emotions, this is not music for you.  Go and have a cup of tea and carry on. 

Every time I listen to this music I rejoice.  lol... I choose my friends wisely, you see...  

URB ALT is also Mr. Fielder's brainchild... a community of artists, filmmakers, photographers, poets, musicians, and their admiring relatives and friends, all attempting to live on the cutting edge of free thought and inspiration.   For me personally it has been a place where I can get to know others like me... alternative thinkers who don't quite fit the manufactured grooves of this groupthink society we all live in.    He will say differently but for me it is a movement, by pure definition of the term.   You see, I have been moved more than once since becoming a member of URB ALT.  Movement is the nature of the beast!  
Boston's orchestra ensemble Muthawit releases its next album soon and I am honored to have been one of the first to hear its jewels pre-mastering and I couldn't wait til the proper time, so I'm telling you all about it now and getting a jump on all the promotional hype that's coming down the road closer to release date.  

As far as I'm concerned, the character of the artist will tell you a lot about their art.  This man is extraordinary in every way that I know him, and has many layers of depth, not to be digested all at once.  
Being his friend is a constant temptation to be greedy. There's stuff I just intuitively know about him but don't have to think about most of the time because it's beneath the surface.  His surfaces, when you meet him, are slow, and easy going, and gentle, just like his southern drawl.  
But don't be deceived.  Every now and then he says something or does something and I'm reminded about that other stuff beneath his skin... things that can be intimidating when one considers to look straight on.  
(Do you think people understand you? Not really. If they did they'd run...)
I gotta look with sunglasses, because he's like the sun.  Most know the sun is strong, so we resist the urge to look at it straight on.  The timid don't bother looking at all, won't even stand naked in its rays for fear of getting cancer, and in the process end up with vitamin deficiencies because of it. The foolish, in their greed, forget and try to look straight into it, and end up with scorched corneas.  
That's what he's like.  Seductive ease on the surface, and raging nuclear energy underneath!  His music is evidence of all that stuff beneath the surface, organized a bit, and recorded for posterity, which is a good thing because his sub-surface stuff evidently doesn't like repeat it self in order to keep you on your toes!

As if to prove my point, while I was writing this last bit a minute ago Fielder emailed me a disclaimer warning me not to hold him to his answers because he plans to contradict himself regularly over the next few months... Schizophrenia Convenia he calls it apparently.. ( one of a thousand Bostonisms I've had the pleasure of cracking up over all these years.)  THEN  a minute or two later, a post-post-disclaimer requesting to add Igor Stravinsky, Samuel R. Delany, and Jack Kirby to his influence list... Did I ask for an influence list? Perhaps he was referring to his heroes... Uncle Baldy, and Co...  He also informed me that this is one of a handful (literally) of interviews he's ever allowed. 

What? I haven't said much of anything about the new album? Perhaps you should go back and read this posting again and pay attention this time. 
There's an appetizer on URB ALT's Sampler Dos which was just made available (for free!!) recently.  Come back after the interview and click the link to get to it! 
URB ALT Sampler Dos
Other than that?  You'll just have to wait!




Below is a quicky email interview I sprung on him today without warning.  These are his off-the cuff answers.  Thank you Boston for your friendship, for your music, for your wisdom, and for your most admirable existence!!   May your purse reach you...

What is Muthawit? A loving homage to my elders, peers, children and folks who use common sense.  
When did you start Muthawit? When I was 7 years old.
What was your inspiration for its creation?  My grandmother's singing voice and my grandfather's speaking voice.
What is the Urb Alt Movement?  Following the North Star is a movement that inspires me personally but I wouldn't call URB ALT a movement.  The financial component would make that hypocrisy.
What makes the Urb Alt Movement important in these times?  I don't know that URB ALT is important.  Is making people feel good about themselves and others enough to say that it's important?  Hmm. 
Would you compare Urb Alt with other movements in music history? Pouring glass as slowly as possible into a pitcher.
What kind of people are participating in your movement?  People who probably don't consider it a movement because movements tend to have a head, the head is lopped off by history and then it dies, is placed in a museum or cryogenically frozen in a state of mediocrity.
Who are your musical heroes past and present day?  Uncle Baldy, Marvin Gaye, Alice Coltrane and that old dude who used to sit on the front row of the church is Tupelo and chanted "Yap, Yeah, Yap, Yeah" during Reverend Pulliam's sermon.
In 10 lines of PROSE or less, describe your musical compositions in poem. "Beauty. Booty. Baby. Bounty. BOOM."
Do you think people understand you?  Not really.  If they did they'd run.
Does being understood matter to you on a personal level?  It means everything and nothing.  Too much to do.
Does it (being understood)matter to the successful spreading of the music?  Only if the music is good does it matter and even then pirates will hijack it on the seas of change before the purse reaches the hands of the chosen.
What do you believe your art contributes to the world?  Joyful cacophony and a good reason to get out of bed or stay in bed depending on the situation.
Is there a subject matter you are afraid to write about?  No.
Is there a subject matter you love to write about?  No.
What is the story behind your new album's title Men and Women?  The death of individualism, the rise of the IRS in the micromechanics of governing and the joy of watching tadpoles swim downstream.
What was the most joyful moment in creating the music on this album?  Mixing PMS Junkie.  It was a bloody good time.
What challenges did you face in making this album?  Tenant revolt.
Is your music influenced by any esoteric or ethereal experiences?  Mainly dead people who walk with us and share our experiences.  They like to dance and eat popcorn.
Did you have any experiences of transcendance during the creation of the music on Men and Women? If so, explain.  I got regular sleep for the first time in well over a year due to roommate overhaul.  It released a torrent of positively kinetic energy.
Which song is your favorite and why? What's it about?  My favorite didn't make the album cause it hasn't been written yet.  It'll be the greatest song ever written in history.  Better than anything Lennon and McCartney or Liberace could produce on their best day.
When will the album be available in stores?  May 9th.  Mutha's Day.
What are your thoughts on overcoming incomplete paradigms in life?  A paradigm by nature is complete.  It's a simple signpost of change that has served it's purpose.
What are you dreaming up for the near future artistically?  Children.
What are you dreaming up for the near future personally?  Protection.

LOVE

CAN YOU STILL LOVE ME IF WE DISAGREE ON SOME FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL?
Love is one of life's basic principles of effective living.
We must love each other, even as we hate deplorable behavior. It takes discipline.
So now, what of your neighbor, or the driver who cut you off on the freeway, the teacher you cant seeme to please, or the head of the NRA?
I don't know about you, but my body is made up of dna that was born in a place known to be the very womb of the human race...
I am born into this world from a sacred origin, and there is no deed, no offens, no ill word that can sully my holy title!
I am God's child, my very atoms passed through vessels of the spirits of my ancestors, born of the land Africa, thus so am I!
My ability to love, be loyal, be honorable, be responsible, work hard, be honest, do not depend on the actions of others.
I manifest these things because they represent that sacred identity in me, the pure that transcends this body and its mind engine.
Do you see your reflection? In the darkest of battles, love is the sharpest of swords, the atomic neutralizer, the great peacemaker.
Today, and every day, I encourage you to LOVE.
Yourself, others, no matter the situation, let your actions be lead by love.
Tomorrow? Honesty.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Brig Feltus Live at Little Temple 4/29

So, next show on the calendar!!  Hope to see you there if you're in town!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Pyrate Turns 13

So, on this past Friday, the Pyrate turned 13... I am officially the mother of a teenager.  Wow.  There have been moments over this last year when he spoke to me and that newly acquired deep toned voice shocked me... made me feel pangs of longing for the squeak I was so accustomed to.  But as life would have it, things do indeed change... My son, sweet, kind, funny, patient, and super-smart... is becoming a young man, facial hair and all.  Yikes.  

We spent the entire weekend celebrating with family and friends, starting with Friday evening.  I made his cake during the day... an organic creation: vanilla cake with bavarian cream and fresh strawberry filling, with buttercream frosting and a skater dude theme, made from scratch and decorated by hand, like I do every year!  (recipe will come in a later posting this week) 
The cake was a big hit when presented at the end of dinner!   I know there'll come a day in the near future when I won't be able to do this for him because he'll be off somewhere on an ocean somewhere saving a shark or something... so I'm enjoying these times while I still have them...

The evening's dinner celebration included 35 family members and close friends, and both the Pyrate and I were so moved by how many showed up.  The chain of tables the restaurant put together was so long you had to either call via phone or actually get up and walk to the other end to talk to someone there.  We had good food, lots of laughs and fun all around. 


The night was highlighted by the Pyrate reading a speech he wrote about coming of age, and his views of his life past, present, and future.   I've included it below because it was too loud in the restaurant for the people at the other end of the table to actually hear what he was saying, and also there are others who couldn't be there who the Pyrate would love to share this speech with.  So at the end of this post is that speech.  My son, he amazes me... to no end, how thoughtful and conscious he is.   




That night, three of his closest friends slept over and we got up early the next morning and went to a really cool skate park where we met up with the Pyrates cousins.  We spent the whole day there!  I made sandwiches:  turkey/avocado/spinach, curry chicken salad, and salami/sopressato with cherry preserves vinaigrette, (all recipes coming later this week) on artisan breads bought at a local bakery the day before... organic kettle chips, kashi chocolate chip cookies, and a fruit punch I made from cranberry juice, cherry juice, and fresh squeezed lemons. (recipes later this week). 
The boys had a ball, skating their butts off.  It was interesting to watch them overcome their fears and try tricks they hadn't tried before, and how they supported each other, cheering each other on, making sure no one got left behind.  Very impressive.  I am blessed that my son has such cool friends as these young men. 


All in all, it was a fantastic day!  The sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze, the spring flowers were blooming... The grown ups played frisbee and entertained each other with silly jokes.  I think I might be doing a few more picnics during the warm seasons this year... I had a lot of fun!  That is, until the gangsta squirrels decided to eat our precious leftover birthday cake!!!!!  ARRRRGH!
So, that's how it was.  I survived this better than I thought I would.  I only cried once, and that was out of the pride swelling up inside me as the Pyrate read his speech at dinner.   Another birthday past.  The weekend was over... his friends gone home...  back to life... open house at school tonight.... 
Meanwhile, the Pyrate's coming of age speech :

Maxim Abraham-Klaus Feltus Adamec Recke

    March 19, 1997. Appx. time: 13:00 Pacific Time. I was born. I am the child of Brigette Ruenette Feltus and Andre Recke. This was the beginning of my life. My mother’s cultural history, African American and Native American in heritage, dates back several generations here in America… the last two here in Los Angees.  My father’s story is new to this country, since he moved here just before I was born, and he grew up in a small town in the country side of Bavaria, Germany.    I think that I represent the American part of my heritage more than my German side, one of the largest reasons being that I live in the U.S., so I do not speak much German. I haven’t spent much time there, so I don’t know much about the rest of the German culture.
    I was born into a family filled with creative people. I have relatives that have a myriad of professions, from muralists to singers in bands. My mother was the latter of the two, was also once a makeup artist and hairstylist, then a singer/songwriter, and soon an author of her own cookbook!  My father is a manager in the music industry, where he has helped many artists to go after their dreams, and he is also a very good bass guitarist.  My grandparents are also artistic.  My granny plays piano, writes music, and teaches young people to play.  My paw paw is an amazing cartoonist, sculptor, and landscape architect.  Both of my great grandmothers were creative, one played piano, and was a sought after seamstress, the other a poet and writer.  Even my Opa in Germany is pretty crafty with his hands, having made many of the toys my dad played with as a boy… My family’s creativity encourages me to express my talent like the rest of my relatives. It was inevitable that I would be a very creative person. I love music, art, and science. I wish to create and advance the worlds of all three someday.  I am on my way now in my everyday life while I draw, practice guitar and saxophone, and study the field of marine biology.
    I think that I have some good qualities as a human being. I can see from many different points of view, yet I have a mind of my own and can think for myself. I also think that I am very intelligent and a fast learner. I think that I am fun to be around. I want to be honest, too, but sometimes I worry about what people will think of me if I tell the truth.
    I wish to be the one that doesn’t blend in, the one that doesn’t bend to the seeming force of peer pressure. I want be original, authentically me.  I want to do the best that I can, even though sometimes I don’t show it. But now that I look back on my mistakes, most of them could have been avoided. And I don’t want to be the one who had a lot of potential, but never gets anywhere. I believe that that would be a sin.

I love many things. I love my mother, my father, my stepfather and my stepmom Andreas and Shauney, my family, my best friends. I love the ocean, and everything in it. I have no idea why I love the ocean so much. I guess it’s one of those things that is just branded into your brain. I guess it might be because the ocean is the closest thing to pure life and harmony that we can get here on this planet.  I think it’s interesting that we know more about outerspace than we do about something on our own planet, the ocean.  Most of the earth’s organisms live in the ocean, including a lot of the oxygen producing plants on earth.  I plan to explore these things for the rest of my life.
I love my parents. They have stuck with me through hard times, especially my mother. I think its because she knows what its like to grow up mostly without a father in her home. She has always taken care of me, making sure to raise me right. She is always there when I’m feeling down. I love my mom.  I love my dad too.  He’s a really good person, fun to be around, and he works hard  so that I can have a good life.  I love my dad.
     I believe in many things. I believe in peace on earth, and an end to world hunger. I also believe that some religions do not truly grasp the entire concept of the universe, and teach everyone that if it isn’t mentioned in whatever holy book that religion might follow, its not possible. What about the flight of man? A few hundred years ago, Christians thought that the flight of man was blasphemy and anyone who tried to achieve this feat was a devil-worshipper. But now that we have planes, we all know that the church isn’t right about everything. I do believe in God, but I do not believe anything about  the corrupt aspects of any organized religion.
  
Today is just the beginning of another chapter in my life. It will be hard sometimes, but I want to make it through with a smile on my face. I want to be that kid who stood out, the one who refused to give in to negativity. I believe that I will succeed in changing the world, in some substantial way.
When I get older, I want to change the world. I want to try and open peoples’ eyes to pollution and the fact that the human race will cease to exist if we continue on this path of destruction, along with the rest of our fellow organisms. There are many living things suffering in the world. I also want to help to save the ones who need help. I want to be a part of the revolution that changes how people think about the earth in general forever.
    I owe the fact that I have such a good life to a lot of people. For example, my teachers and my whole gigantic family. They are the reason that I am who I am today, even though I might think they are just giving me a hard time. I know I’ll look back and thank them all. So I’m just gonna get it over with now while I have the chance.  Thanks to all of you and those who are not here for all the ways you have made my life a good one so far.  I am blessed and I thank God for you all.
My mom always reminds me that today, already while I’m still very young, I can already make a difference by setting an example with my friends, by being kind, helpful, productive, and thoughtful.  Sometimes it’s not easy to be all those things, especially when you come int contact with so many people not trying to be those things.  But I try anyway.  It’s challenging because there’s a price for all of this.  I often stand out like a sore thumb and kids sometimes make fun of me.  But I just try to remember what everyone who really matters tells me… No one can define who I am, but me.  There is a poem by William Ernest Henley called Invictus.  My mom shared it with me recently.  Apparently Nelson Mandela would recite this poem daily to himself when he was all those years in prison work camps.  Maybe this will help me like it helped him to remember that I am the captain of my own destiny. 

Invictus
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cook 'n Dine with Brig Feltus

What happens when you learn how capitalism has completely corrupted the way we eat in this country?  You buy less processed foods.  You stop feeding your kids fast food.  You start educating yourself, and you try to cook more.  You buy fresh produce and meats from the supermarket and prepare them yourself. 

Are you safe then?  Well, no, it seems the horrifying truth is no.  Even if you do these things you are exposing your body to foods riddled with pesticides, genetical engineering, chemical fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics.  That's just for starters.  The horror story gets worse because beyond these very tangible and obvious crimes against humanity, we are purchasing meats that come from animals raised in the most atrociously unnatural conditions in the name of mass production and high yield.  Animals are being fed foods they would never normally eat because those foods are cheaper, and because those foods manipulate the animal's metabolism, making them grow faster... up to 3 times what they would have without any manipulation. 
Produce is plucked green and unripe before the sun has gifted it with the nutrients, color, and flavor, just so that it can survive its journeys to far away places where that produce may not be growing at that time of year.  It's often treated with chemical gases once arrived, so as to create artificial ripeness.  This is why fruit from a tree in your yard tastes so different from fruit bought at your local big chain supermarket.  
We eat this food without knowing... thinking if we cook fresh food, we're doing good by our families... not understanding the growth hormones given to animals is being ingested when we eat them and our children are reaching puberty at younger and younger ages because of it.... not understanding why when we buy fruit in the grocery store the flavor is so hit and miss.... not understanding that there is very little if any research to determine what the consequences are to eating genetically engineered foods.... meanwhile cancer, diabetes, autism, immune disorders, and hundreds of other ailments continue to plague us and we don't know how we get them.

I'm only so far talking about those of us who try to do good. I don't even want to get into what's in all the packaged foods and fast food we eat in this country.  Why the hell are we in such a hurry anyway?  Greed is killing us.  It's the other name for capitalism and convenience,  if you really think about it and it's killing us one bite at a time. 
I am always outraged at the way you can walk into a grocery store and there can be two seemingly identical items on a shelf, sometimes from the same corporate source, one says 'organic'  the other not.  The organic is always more expensive.  It's preposterous.  Why, after all should it cost more to get your food the old fashioned way, with less chemicals, less pesticides, less interference in general?  Shouldn't it be if we mess with it less, it would be cheaper?  Wouldn't it make sense that if the produce grew an hour drive away, it would cost less than the one imported from South America???  Well, unfortunately, the way our food system is set up, there's no way for organic to compete on a large scale.  So we reject it.  Throw our hands up and give in to the poison... We are literally drinking the koolaid and we don't even realize it. 
So what then?  What happens when you realize this?  Well, in my case, I had the opportunity to live in other countries where the food systems are not all about capitalism. 


They might be fascinated by our bright colors and shiny flashy labels, but back home in their countries they do things a little differently than we do.
When I was living in Germany 13 years ago, there was perhaps one or two supermarkets in the cities I lived in and they weren't very popular.  Why not?  They were not needed. They were really just a novelty you could find in the really big cities where there were a lot of Americanized amenities.  That's what they call it... Americanized.... Shameful...

But again, those stores were novelties, mostly marketed towards homesick expatriots living there or poor souls who somehow thought anything Americanized was cool. 
The average person didn't go there.  It wasn't not as convenient, as inexpensive, as fresh as what they could find right outside the door to their home...
Each little neighborhood... I'm talking about a couple of blocks square... had a butcher who got his meats from the farmer who raised it, somewhere within 30-50 miles on the outskirts of town, and he received it whole and cut it into the various cuts of meat himself on the premises and sold it within the same week... each had a produce stand (or two) where you could buy fresh fruits and vegetables grown nearby... yes, they still had bananas from south america and such, but the majority of the produce came from a farm close by... and if it was out of season, they didn't have it.... simple as that... I remember thinking to myself I must be tripping off of culture shock or something because I could have sworn that the vegetables tasted better and I didn't understand at the time why... each neighborhood had a bakery with fresh baked bread and such.... and if you wanted things like cereal or other packaged foods you'd go to a store that pretty much only sold that kind of stuff... even there, was no frosted flakes, cocoa puffs, cap'n crunch, or honey bunches of oats.... there were different sorts of whole grain cereals, oats, grits, wheat meal, muesli, and the occasional granola... there you could also buy your dairy products which came from a farm which was, again within 30-50 miles of the city you were in... Cheese could be bought there too, but you could get that fresher and better quality at the cheese monger in your neighborhood.  All of these would be within easily 5 minutes walking distance and everyone owned one of those rolling market baskets that fold up like an umbrella.  People didn't even often drive to get to these places. 

It was customary to buy only what you'd use in the next couple of days and that was fine because you knew that at any time, on your way in from work or school you could stop through and pick up fresh items.  
Foods didn't have to be advertised as organic because it was the law that they be that.  They didn't need not to be because the farmers could manage to keep up with their livestock... enough to supply just the butchers in their town, and not an entire country.  By the way the entire country is smaller than the state of texas...

Did you  know that in America there used to be several dozen suppliers of meat?  Now there are about a handful... yes, actually less than 5 major meat suppliers in the entire country!  Do you know what that means?  These companies have streamlined the raising, feeding, and production of meat in this country in such a way that they can cost effectively supply a country that is probably 50 times the size of Germany!!!   You can imagine the atrocities without actually seeing them with your own eyes. 


In countries abroad, the way they produce their food is more sensible, safer, less expensive, and truly, truly more convenient and NO ONE IS COMPLAINING!  Yes, logistically it means they eat less animal products than we do.  We eat too much animal products anyway... feeding the greed in us... But the truth should hurt!

 Here, you can buy a cut of meat and there is no regulation that says they have to tell you if it has been treated, for example as some ground meats with fillers are, with ammonia... or to inform you of whether or not the meat is from a cloned animal.  Or whether the 3 lb chicken you're buying has been fed animal waste products mixed in its meal and  is really 2 lbs and the rest is salt water injected into it to make it look more plump.... (by the way, they're selling it to you by the pound and you're paying for that pound of salt water... basically paying to be lied to... )  Our regulations are in reverse.  There are regulations for those claiming to be organic but none saying that non-organic food producers have to disclose anything... Okay, they disclose "ingredients" but nothing about the processing, nothing about the growth, nothing about the pesticides, hormones or antibiotics... because we would be outraged! 


So what now?  In my case, I am now slowly weening my family off of non-organic eating habits.  We are shopping farmer's markets for produce when we can and buy from the organic section in the supermarket.  We're eating less meat because it's expensive to buy free range, grass fed, hormone free, antibiotic free animal products.  We also shop at small bodega type markets which we know buy their fresh foods locally within our state.  
I cook more often.  I seldom eat at fast food places anymore except in an emergency, and I try to hit up one such as Chipotle which is a known practitioner of sustainable foodsWe are not religious about all of this.  But everytime I buy food, I am conscious now.  I am aware now.  I don't ever put anything in my mouth without understanding the consequences.  It is a matter of awareness. 

And this is how Cook 'n Dine with Brig Feltus was born.  I wanted to share what I'm learning with people who would listen.  We're making it fun by visiting farmer's markets, watching films, cooking together, and then dining together. 

The first one was a great success, with a sold out attendance and raves afterward.  We went to a farmer's market, watched a film about farmers markets around the country, and then cooked a delicious Sunday Brunch style meal. 

This month, we'll be headed out early in the morning to a local organic farm that supplies fresh produce to high end restaurants and farmer's markets in Los Angeles county.   We'll be watching Food Inc.  and then cooking with the foods we bring back from the farm. 
If you are an Los Angeles local and any of this post inspires or moves you to make a change in your own life, please join us!  Let's learn together and spread this information to others that we love.  As corruption crumbles this obscene way of life all around us, just like in other living species, only the fittest will survive.  I don't intend to be among the feeble.  I intend to be among the strong, and  I'm starting with this small baby step and I hope you'll take it with me. 
Monthly sessions can be attended by signing up at brigfeltuscookndine@earthlink.net
You can also join our facebook group to stay in the loop regarding future events.
Co-Ed Cook 'n Dine with Brig Feltus group page on Facebook

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Stating The Obvious Volume I

I state the obvious to remind myself to first test the simple solutions.  Here is my first collection of advice to self...

If you're looking at the equation and it's not adding up, the numbers are all wrong.

If you don't like where you are, go somewhere else.

When it's dark and it seems like you can't see the end of the road, #1 open your eyes, #2 perhaps you missed your offramp.

When it's dark and it seems like you can't see the end of the road, #1 open your eyes, #2 perhaps you missed your offramp.

When you think you have it all figured out, remember that it's all an illusion.

When you feel exhausted with how long it's taking, put down one or two of those heavy bags you insist on carrying around.

If you already think the answer is "no", then what do you have to lose by asking?

If you're not happy with who you are, then you're not yourself.

You should know you're addicted to something when it costs you more than you can afford and you still don't let it go.

When a brick falls from the sky and hits you in the head, MOVE! don't wait for the rest of the building to fall on you too!!!

If you want something to grow, you have to feed it daily.

Before you go looking for the answer out in the world, clean out your cabinets you might already have what you're looking for.

The truth hurts? It may sting a bit but the devastation a lie can cause is immeasurable.

There's no one else like me, and that's just like everyone else in the world.

Greed kills... mind, body, and spirit, but generosity creates life.


~All of the above Statements of the Obvious were written by Brig Feltus


Thankyouverymuch.  :)
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