Know It All…Or Know It Not

Have there been times when you believed that you knew something, but found out later that what you thought you knew was either completely wrong, or at best incomplete?  This was my situation last month in Alaska. I thought I was a know it all, or at least a know it a little bit, found out that I was a know it not.

After a magical helicopter ride I was standing on top of a glacier.  It didn’t look anything like what I thought a glacier looked like.  I had certainly seen pictures of glaciers calving on National Geographic.  As I stood there, I realized that I had a very “kindergarten” or one-dimensional view of a glacier.  In reality I knew nothing at all. This was quite sobering.  I found that I couldn’t really wrap my brain around it.

on top of a glacierI walked on the glacier, looked into the deep tunnels, drank from a glacial stream, and marveled at the beauty.  Soon after we boarded an air boat and viewed the glacier from that level.  I got to see another aspect of a glacier, and it looked a little bit more like what I had seen on TV.

The next day we entered Glacier Bay.  There I saw two distinctly different glaciers.  One wasn’t even white.  They were close enough together that I could view them by simply turning my head.  That totally blew my mind.

I continued to grapple with the question what is a glacier for the rest of the trip.  I looked it up on the internet and found “a slowing moving mass or river of ice formed by magnificent view of glacierthe accumulation and compaction of snow on mountains or near the poles.”  I also found “a glacier is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight; it forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries.”  Even by the time we left, I couldn’t tell a glacier from a mountain most of the time.

majestic glacierI was left wondering how often in my life I have been convinced that I understood something and been totally wrong because I had only viewed it from one vantage point.  I will need to be more careful in assuming what I do and do not know.

 

Valentine’s Day Traditions

When I think of Valentine’s Day I always think of red construction paper, doilies, stickers, and hearts.  Our tradition was to make our Valentine’s Day cards instead of purchasing them. Pictures were sometimes cut from old cards and silly rhyming verses were created.

How many of you know why the tradition of Valentine’s Day was started? I know I didn’t. Accounts differ somewhat, but most people agree that Valentine’s Day started with Saint Valentine, who was a priest in Rome. He was jailed and executed for marrying couples during a ban on marriages decreed by the Emperor Claudius II. Valentine was executed on February 14, 269.

This corresponded with a holiday that honored Juno, the Roman Goddess of women and marriage and the festival of Lupercalia.  In 496, Pope Gelasius set aside February 14th as a holiday honoring Saint Valentine.

Valentine’s Day has been celebrated throughout history in various ways. In the Middle Ages, men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be there valentine. They would wear these names on their sleeves for a week. That is where the expression, wearing your heart on your sleeve, comes from.  Interestingly, the selection of names from a bowl in order to “pair up” was also a tradition associated with the festival of Lupercalia.

As Christianity  emerged, old pagan practices were changed or renamed. At one point the names of saints were drawn from the bowl instead and the boys and girls were expected to draw inspiration from the chosen saint throughout the year. By the middle of the 18th century, written cards and gifts were exchanged.

In England several hundred years ago, many children dressed up as adults on Valentine’s Day. They went caroling from home to home. A tradition song was “good morning to you Valentine; Curl your locks as I do mine — Two before and three behind; good morning to you, Valentine.” That doesn’t seem very romantic to me.

In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts.  Hearts, keys, and keyholes often decorated the spoons. These decorations were understood to mean “You unlock my heart!”  This was the basis for the expression “spooning.”

Another tradition was for young girls to write the names of her boyfriends on bits of paper.  The paper was rolled in clay and dropped in water. The first name to rise would be her true valentine.

Bay leaves were also useful among unmarried girls in finding a husband. They would pin 5 bay leaves to their pillow on the evening before Valentine’s Day. One leaf would be in the center and the others to each of the four corners. If they did this then their future husband would be revealed to them in their dreams.

Finally, from Italy, here is a custom I like. In the evening the couples go out to dinner. Then, gifts are given such as red roses, perfume, diamonds, or Baci Perugina.  Baci Perugina are small chocolate covered hazelnuts that contain a small piece of paper with a romantic poem in four languages.

This year, seek your own tradition.  It is a holiday to say “I love you, Je t’aime, Moi oiy neya, Ich liebe Dich, Ti amo, Saya cinta padamu, Mahal Kita, or Eg elskar deg.

Enjoy!

Mise en place

Are you impressed with my French?  Don’t be. Not only do I not speak French, I stink at mise en place.  I watch many cooking shows.  In fact, I’m somewhat addicted to them.  I’ve heard Alton Brown and others preach mise en place.  But do I practice it? NO!!! For example, one day I started putting together a great Tuscan Bean Soup but dumped the onions in the oil to saute long before I had even retrieved the garlic from the cupboard or the carrots from the refrigerator.

I’ve been pondering this personal deficit for a while now and it truly baffles me. I’m a person who makes lists.  My daily schedule in on an Excel spreadsheet and I dutifully remove things as they are completed. Usually the tasks are even recorded in order. The list might include thawing meat for tomorrow’s dinner, or staging the items I plan to take to the office the next day.  So my mise en place failure isn’t an inability to plan ahead.

I’m not a terribly patient person though. I can look patient, but on the inside I’m usually quite the opposite. I do find it hard to wait for the things I want or the activities I want to do. I’ve learned to cope with it though, so I can generally stay within a financial or time budget.

After reading an article about mise en place I think I may have found the answer. Mise en place can also be about attitude. If I fail to prepare my attitude or thoughts, the behavior is more erratic. I think this could be a lesson that far transcends the kitchen.

If you have a pre-cooking attitude adjuster that works for you…..please share.