On the Eighth Day of China: What Am I Eating?

Prior to my trip, I learned a bit of Mandarin, including the essentials like basic food and drink. So I knew how to read and say different kinds of meat, noodles, water, beer, and a few other key words. But what I didn’t know were the words for the hundreds of different types of vegetables that the Chinese have. So many vegetables! It was wonderful. Too often when I travel, I find I’m fiending for vegetables when I get back home. Most countries seem to either not have as many available as we do in the United States, or only served them boiled or pickled or otherwise altered. But not China. China has all the vegetables your body could possibly crave, and then some. And fruits and sauces and other meats I couldn’t identify. And dumplings! I ate so many dumplings and rarely knew what was in them. I really don’t know how people with dietary restrictions travel. I figure it’s best not to ask too many questions – just let go of your cultural limitations of what is okay to eat, try everything, and enjoy! Well, maybe. Hold that thought until my last bullet point below.   Continue reading →

68.29 Weeks in the Mountains: Channeling My Inner Jefferson

A common question teachers ask grade school students to write about is: If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why? For me, that answer has always been Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson and I have many things in common: a love of freedom and independence, a demand for personal responsibility, a craving for good wine and food, a sense of the importance of reading and correspondence, a respect for personal time and space, a desire for culture and lifelong education, a commitment to reason and science over religion, and a belief in taking care of one’s body through regular exercise. But a passion for gardening and living off the land is one area where we have always differed. Jefferson’s gardens, and his meticulous record-keeping about his gardens are well-known among Jefferson and gardening aficionados alike. I tried to make a small garden once, six years ago, but a spring hailstorm destroyed everything and I couldn’t be bothered to try again.

In the Denver/Boulder area, there’s definitely some pressure to have a garden, given the popularity of gardening and the emphasis here on fresh vegetables, farmers markets, and organic living. Many of my friends and neighbors have gardens and even work for community garden organizations. Despite my initial failed attempt and subsequent resignation, I have still wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. And living at The Sanctuary, it seems a bit wasteful to not take advantage of the space and the sunshine. With an adobe-walled courtyard to keep the plants warm and sheltered, and keep the critters out, I already have a leg-up on other amateur horticulturists, so this past summer seemed like the perfect time to give it another go.  And if I was going to try, naturally I was going to be Jeffersonian about it. Continue reading →