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Sweet Darkness

The moon is in a waxing crescent phase currently, the perfect time to see the features on it’s surface.

As this moon phase marks a leave from darkness I thought it would be fitting to post one of my favorite poems “Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte.

 

When your eyes are tired

the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone,

no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark

where the night has eyes

to recognize it’s own.

There you can be sure

you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home

tonight.

The night will give you a horizon

Further than you can see.

The must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes the sweet darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

 

Listen to David Whyte read this poem here.

Salud

Sunrise

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Sourdough and celestial wonderings

I haven’t much to say this post. Only to remind you that the moon is full and bright in the sky. I witnessed it this morning as it disappeared into the mirage of the sun’s sky. The scientist in me discards it as a normal celestial occurrence while the dreamer in me sees it as a metaphor of the ying and yang of life – seemingly opposite forces that in reality are complimentary, interconnected and interdependent, unable to exist without one another.

Back to the real world, I’ve attempted to culture an Argentinian sourdough. How do you do that you might ask – well you take a clean sterile jar and mix water and flour into a soupy paste. Then leave it on your counter with a screen over top to keep out unwanted bugs and wait for the yeast in the air to naturally culture themselves in it. You’ll know they’re there when you start to see bubbles. If on the other hand you start seeing a white or green blanket forming on the top, toss it, you’ve got bacteria. Once the culture bubbles feed it some flour and stir it (maintain the same consistency by adding some water). Next you put the lid on it and put it in the fridge. You have to feed it flour every week and you have to use/discard part of the mixture every week to keep it alive. I have a weird aversion to waste so I always use it but if you want to use it in the first 3 weeks you should use it in conjunction with dry active bread yeast or your bread will turn out pretty dense. This is because the sourdough culture isn’t strong enough yet and won’t raise your bread as much as you might want. I’ve had my culture for a month now and it’s doing alright. I found for me it works best to kneed the bread at night and then leave it to rise overnight and bake it in the morning. I find if I don’t give it at least 6 hours I make bricks instead of bread…. That said you could also just go to your local bakery and buy a delicious loaf of sourdough. Those bakers actually know what they’re doing and make enough sourdough to make it easy to replenish their culture and keep it very healthy, however I like playing with my microscopic pets. I also have some fermenting cabbage and ginger but I will save those for another post.

sour dough

Lastly, this year I’ve taken up a regime of daily meditation and I’ve been using Jiddu Krishnamurti’s The Book of Life for inspiration. It contains 364 meditation’s for each day of the Gregorian calendar. His penning for the date of June 9th particularly resonated with my intention to meditate so I’ve included it below. Sat Nam

Attention free of effort – Is there attention without anything absorbing the mind? Is there attention without concentrating upon an object? Is there attention without any form of motive, influence, compulsion? Can the mind give full attention without any sense of exclusion? Surely it can, and that is the only state of attention; the others are mere indulgence, or tricks of the mind. If you can give full attention without being absorbed in something, and without any sense of exclusion, then you will find out what it is to meditate; because in that attention there is no effort, no division, no struggle, no search for a result. So meditation is a process of freeing the mind from systems, and of giving attention without either being absorbed, or making an effort to concentrate.

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Ella pone la mesa

I believe in eating with the people and the seasons. And eating with the people just as much as the seasons. – Candace Bättig

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Lemon ginger couscous with broccoli, chickpeas and kidney beans

When I cook for myself in Argentina I eat a lot of bulgar, couscous, bread, chickpeas, lentils and a BUNCH of vegetables. Argentina is a place for meat though when it comes to cooking here. A favorite of theirs is empanadas filled with “carne” roughly translated to meat and usually meaning beef. So in an effort to fit in with the people and not to subject them to my weird ‘grass’7, as my brother would call it, food I attempted to learn the art of making empanadas. Now they can easily be made pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan using my dough recipe and substituting the filling of your dietary choice (You can also substitute chickpea, rice or other non gluten flours. You’ll have to work the water ratio a little bit however and be careful when forming the empanadas because the lack of gluten will lend the dough to falling apart). Butter is traditionally used in the dough which will give it a wonderfully flaky deliciousness. If you would like to substitute butter I recommend using half a cup cut it into the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients and add more water as needed.

Empanadas a la Candace

Filling

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp random meat spice from the grocery store (cumin, oregano, white pepper)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ cup of wine
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 olives diced

Dice onion and garlic. Saute in frying pan with oil. Add beef, wine, salt and spices. Use a spatula to cut up the beef a little and leave to simmer. By cooking the beef in a liquid you will encourage the collagen to break apart and make it an extra velvety filling. Stir occasionally to ensure everything cooks. Add tomato paste and stir. Once it looks thickened remove it from heat and let it cool. The filling is easier to work with when it’s cold. I made mine a day in advance and stored it in the fridge.

Dough

  • 100g oil
  • 1 egg or 1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water (let sit for 5-10min before blending)
  • 1 tbsp vinegar (I used wine vinegar)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300g flour (I split it half whole wheat and half white)
  • 1 tbsp corn starch

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients together in separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix the dough so that it just comes together (don’t over work). Add more flour as needed.

Roll out the dough and cut large circles using a bowl or dough cutter. Or if you are like me and without a rolling pin break off small bun size bits of dough and work it like they make pizza in the movies. I oil my hands or use flour to keep the dough from sticking to me. Next use your judgment to decide how much filling will fit. If your circles are homemade and not perfect use the longest sides to bring up and squish together. They don’t have to look perfect (unless you want them to, in that case they do) they will be delicious either way.

Cook at 35042F (or with the dial three quarters to the lowest heat in an Argentinian oven) for approximately 30 minutes. I like to rotate mine on the three sides by flipping them every ten minutes.

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Taste testing the first batch of empanadas

I hope you enjoy my version of a little taste of Argentina. As they say here, Bon Provecho!

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A County Winemaker at Large, in Patagonia, Argentina

Sometimes I have the honour of posting for Broken Stone Winery. Here are my thoughts about my vintage in Patagonia. Salud!

Candace Battig, a member of the Broken Stone Winery crew, is spending the summer in Patagonia, Argentina at Bodega Noemia  where she is working in their lab and creating some cutting edge Pinot Noir.   She joins us as a guest blogger…

“There’s energy in the wine”, says Hans as he pulls a sample for tasting from the 2015 Noemia barrels. And he’s right — there is an energy in the wines of Bodega Noemia. Produced from biodynamic grapes picked at their peak ripeness the wines have an energy about them.

Visiting yet another southern wine region on the brink of the growing season, I have cemented my conviction that the best wine comes from grapes that are grown on the edge. These liminal places provide the perfect combination of climate and earth to create the most incredible fruit — and from incredible grapes comes divine wine.

It’s every winemakers aspiration to…

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Musings on stoicism, passion, and interest

I’ve waffled and wavered over what to write about in this waxing moon post. However I’ve recently filled my mind with the musings of stoicism, passion, and interest. So I’ve chosen three of my favorite quotes on the aforementioned topics and wrote a little piece about my thoughts in relation to them.

“Although we can’t control which roles are assigned to us, it must be our business to act our given role as best we possibly can and to refrain from complaining about it. Where ever you find yourself and in whatever circumstances, give an impeccable performance.” – interpretation from Epiticus’s work Enchiridion

Stoicism, because it can be very easy to feel sorry for yourself. In fact many people go through life this way, but life owes us nothing. In life you have to take the good with the bad. If you had no bad you would never know what good really means and every bad situation provides you with an opportunity to learn and to grow. In my opinion if you’re not being challenged you are not growing and that’s not the life for me. I want to be challenged, don’t get me wrong, I like having the familiar to go back to but it has exist in combination with a challenge for me to be happy. As well, don’t misunderstand me, I fall victim to the cathartic satisfaction of self pity at times, every person does and if you said otherwise I would be highly speculative of that claim. In the end I always get more pleasure in discovering the solution than wallowing in self pity of the problem.

“A passionate mind is groping, seeking, breaking through, not accepting any tradition; it is not a decided mind, not a mind that has arrived, but it is a young mind that is ever arriving.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Passion. I probably have to much of this. I feel very passionate about my convictions, ask my family and I’m sure they will tell you. It is most definitely a key to leadership, if you’re not passionate about a topic or a job how are you to inspire others to do their best work? Passion is contagious and as a leader if you lack passion you can be sure your job will be very difficult because motivation starts from you. You are responsible for giving people a reason to feel motivated to accomplish the task they are completing. As a highly motivated person I find it rewarding to motivate someone else or give them that “aha!” moment when everything clicks.

“I think charm is the ability to be truly interested in other people.” – Richard Avedon

Finally interest, genuine interest, be interested, in people, places and things. You don’t need to know every detail of a persons life but in showing a genuine interest when someone shares a piece of their life with you it shows that you care and that they matter. I’ll take a work focus on discussing interest because I feel it’s important to show interest at work and I find it often lacking or inappropriate. At work you must tread the fine line of being professional and human and this is an art that must be mastered. On the human side of things, while I may feel my job is my vocation a job is only a job for most people and it’s my challenge to discover how to motivate people. Are they motivated by money, pride, accountability, success? From experience, when you give people clear consistent standards (that you also follow) and make them accountable for maintaining those standards they will be. From there you can move on to setting goals. People come from all different backgrounds and it is important to aware that everyone has a life outside of their job and it’s that life that gives them a reason to have a job.

Alright that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope this post has been thought provoking. Enjoy the waxing moon where ever you might be. It’s been beautiful in the sky the past few nights here in the southern hemisphere. The peak of the waxing moon will be on May 3rd for those of you who are curious to know.

Salud

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Tessellate

“…Love alone can transform insanity, confusion, and strife. No system, no theory of the left or of the right can bring peace and happiness to man. Where there is love, there is no possessiveness, no envy; there is mercy and compassion, not in theory, but actually—for your wife and for your children, for your neighbor and for your servant….Love alone can bring about mercy and beauty, order and peace. There is love with its blessing when “you” cease to be.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Today marks 48 moon phases, 16 seasons and 4380 meals or 4 years since I first embarked on “my year of local”. A culmination of tessellations moving in a synchronous rhythm without gaps or overlaps. Looking back through my posts I feel grounded, inspired and loved.

The familiarity of home cooked food has always given me a sense of comfort and connection no matter where I am. I want to share the recipe for my mom’s cinnamon biscuits this post. They remind me of early mornings as a child waking up to their intoxicating smell and my mom’s smile. They bring me such fond memories to make. It helps make being away from home for long periods of time easier and sharing them is a great way to make new friends! Buen Provecho

Blend in a large bowl:

4 cups flour

2 tsp. salt

8 tsp. baking powder

½ cup sugar

Cut in 1 cup of Butter

In a 2 cup measuring cup beat 2 eggs then add butter milk to make 2 cups (to make butter milk add lemon juice to whole milk)

Gently incorporate the wet mixture into the dry mixture being careful not to over work the dough.

Roll out half the dough at a time.

To make the filling melt ½ cup of butter and use half on each dough segment (¼ cup). Next sprinkle 1 cup of brown sugar and cinnamon to your taste on top of each of the two dough segments.

Roll the dough length wise into a spiral wheel and slice into buns.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper and place the cut buns next to each other on the pan.

Bake at 400 F for 15 min.

Staring up at the full moon this evening from the Patagonian desert I’m reminded of my insignificance, my significance and my connection to this world. I often forget just how many stars are in the sky, out here in quiet dark of the desert they seem infinite.

Sat Nam

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Take me to Church: Wine as religion

Libation (n) – a drink poured out as an offering to a deity.

Wine, the most holy of fermented beverages, used as a symbol of Christs blood and as an offering to the gods almost universally it has long ties with religion. I think this is fitting because wine is very similar to religion. Everyone has their own unique experience with religion building their personal belief system and same is true for wine.

Wine has the potential to excite all the senses and transport you. This is the aim of the most passionate winemakers. For them wine is life there’s no start and no finish it’s an endless journey. Each vintage is unique and their challenge is to work with the grapes to create a wine that is both aesthetically pleasing and expressive of the year. You see wine is alive. It’s living, breathing and has a soul you might say. Some souls are made to be present for a long time, others a short time and still more come and go with the passing of time.

This is why wine is an art and a science. There is a definite scientific side to the making of wine with the interplay of organic molecules within the grapes in terms of acids, phenols, sugar, esters, and alcohol. As well as the biological organisms: yeast, enzymes and bacteria that act as catalysts in creating the wine. As a basic rule healthy grapes make great wine. It is the winemaker however that guides the process. This is where wine becomes an art. One wrong decision and your potentially 100 point wine can turn to vinegar. It takes the wisdom of an experienced winemaker to guide the wine in the right direction and take action when necessary to avoid disaster.

Wine is like a child, in the beginning its possibilities are endless, it has an inevitable rebellious phase at some point (sometimes multiple) but given the proper base and guided in the right direction its potential is unbounded and it can reach limitless heights. As I said at the beginning of this post it is the goal of the most passionate winemaker to create a wine that transports you and your senses into another realm, ethereal, like a death and rebirth.

So what determines the life of a wine you might ask? Well let me tell you, it’s a complex interplay of the many components of wine and it’s environment.

You need acidity, this is going to give the wine structure and protect it from bacteria. Ever tasted a “flat” wine or any beverage for that matter? It was likely lacking an acidic component to round it out. Acid in wine is produced inside the grape and has an inverse relation to sugar. That means as sugar increases acid decreases so you want to make sure you pick your grapes when the balance between sugar and acid is just right.

Now sugar is arguably the most important component of wine. The sugar content of a grape determines the potential alcohol since it is the sugar that yeast convert to alcohol during fermentation. Sugar often takes a backseat in the final product being mostly converted to alcohol but it can be used to soften acid, think an Auslese German Riesling that has a striking acidity contrasted with honey sweetness to balance it out.

Next you need phenols these compounds affect the taste, colour and mouthfeel of the wine. Tannins which are often associated with a tongue drying sensation also impart the colour in wine and are well know for their antioxidant properties. Tannins and acids accentuate each other they are not often found in tandem, one always wins over the other.

Esters give you the olfactory component of wine. The smells of fruits, flowers, earth,minerals and any other attribute come from these resonating compounds that are naturally created in the grapes or pulled from the surfaces the wine has contacted. These chemicals are my favorite part of wine because I am in awe that a plant could create such diverse smells from the selective arrangement of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms… I won’t bore you with the chemistry of it but trust me the next time you have a glass of wine close your eyes and smell it, you’ll be transported.

Lastly you have alcohol, this has the obvious effect of intoxication when it is over consumed but it also affects mouth feel. Alcohol content gives the wine a viscosity which you can feel in your mouth. Visually you can see alcohol content through a wines “legs.” This is a physics principal called the Marangoni Effect which is the mass transfer along an interface of two liquids due to surface gradient tension. Put more simply the tears are created by water (greater surface tension) pulling away from alcohol (lower surface tension).

Now that I’ve put you to sleep talking about my wine science did I mention I have the pleasure of spending this years Southern vintage in the Patagonian desert? It’s absolutely ethereal and the wines thus far are other worldly, they have an energy about them that transports you.

The winery is called Bodega Noemia. They produce mainly wines with the Malbec grape but we have a small vat of Pinot Noir this year. It’s only just started fermenting but it’s absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Today I had the honour of performing the “pigeage a pied” otherwise known as the foot stomp of the grapes which serves to introduce more oxygen and encourage the fermentation.

Thank you for reading my philosophical, scientific and as per usual nonsensical ramblings. I’ve included a photo of today’s foot stomp for your enjoyment.

Sante!

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