What is Your Orientation?

Given the current social/political climate I wouldn't be at all surprised if you took this to be a question about your sexual preference(s) or the gender you identify with. 

As a faithful reader of this blog I want to personally say to you that I support you in whatever your choice(s). Good on you! I have friends who are just like that. Have a nice life.

But, hold on. There are other kinds of orientations. 

Have you heard about Feng Shui? It's the ancient Chinese philosophy about the flow of energy. Let's put it this way: you don't put the china hutch just in from the entrance to your home. It's like that. Where things go. What works, really.

How about geographic orientation? Which way is up? Getting close.

The orientation I'm pointing to is toward the Earth itself. More specifically, with the Earth. What works?

In my professional capacity let me quote my teacher, Dr. Ida P. Rolf: ''Rolfers make a life study of relating bodies and their fields to the earth and its Gravity field, and we so organize the body that the Gravity field can reinforce the body's energy field. This is our primary concept."

"This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself."

In a nutshell then, when you live aligned with the dictates of Gravity you live easy, relaxed, effortlessly upright, strong and present. That's the very definition of health. Certainly a prerequisite for top performance and fullest creative expression. Oh, yes. It feels good. It lasts. It reinforces itself.

If you want to get all Ultimate and Real on the question of orientation, hear what Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche has to say in The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion — Shambhala Publications:

"Shunyata is basically the realization of nonexistence or emptiness. The more we realize nonexistence, the more we can afford to be compassionate and giving. Usually we would like to hold on to our territory and fixate on that particular ground, and once we begin to fixate, we have no way to give.

But when we begin to realize that there is no ground, that we are ultimately free, non-aggressive, and open — and when we realize that we are actually nonexistent ourselves — we can give. We have lots to gain and nothing to lose at that point. We are not — we are no, rather.

The experience of shunyata is also related to devotion. You begin to feel loneliness and aloneness at the same time. With shunyata, what you have heard and what you have experienced become part of your conviction."

From Joseph Campbell:

""The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature." 

— From: “A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living" (Copyright © 1991 Joseph Campbell Foundation), p. 148"

Am I the Father of Fusion Cooking?

When I resided in the lovely section Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York, my set liked to think of itself as trendy. Little did we know that the Brooklyn we had then discovered for "gentrification" (to me it seemed mostly to be about stripping interior home woodwork) would evolve to become ground zero in present times for all things gonzo-hip and über-trendy.

Back then, shopping at Sahadi Imports on Atlantic Avenue for Mid-Eastern specialties was trendy. Now, its smoked truffle sea salt encrusted . . . whatever . . . at our favorite, still undiscovered, micro-brewery cum patisserie cum small batch eau de vie distillery using locally sourced hipster farmer grown organic ingredients from only certain favorite locales in the tri-state region, and preferably from the Borough of Brooklyn.

Time marches on. When we relocated back to the NYC area not that long ago, I drove from New Jersey to Brooklyn to nose around a bit. Where once when we first came to Park Slope a certain major street looked like a war zone — boarded up dilapidated storefronts everywhere — now there's a baby boutique on every other block and plenty of choices to get your Latte on. Twice the number of people too. You can't go home again.

And, speaking of home, the Brownstone we bought in the mid-1970s for $60,000 had sold for $3+ million a few years back. And I did see it recently listed for a million more. WTF! I don't think they would even let me in the door now.

In any event, my group of friends liked to entertain and get together over good food. I was a contender myself in the culinary department. We had Omelette rivalries. Progressive dinners.

My friend Stanley Mongin had a big restaurant grade Garland stove at his house. (Now my #1 Daughter designs kitchens with such swell stoves as the usual.) Somehow we got the idea to do some catering. Stan even had some commercial enameled long pans we used for platters.[Martha Stewart got the same catering/food prep idea around that time, but she persevered. (Now, we persevere with her.)] He also  had some contacts with the then newly developing Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and we got some gigs catering after-show parties there. One post performance visiting ballet troupe cast party at BAM Director Harvey Weinstein's home in Manhattan. My friends encouraged me to try out for the job of running the concession serving drinks and snacks during show intermissions at BAM. I demurred. Other fish to fry it turns out.

We also had a fair share of other events. A swell Manhattan penthouse wedding reception, a Bar Mitzvah, an Italian American community group gathering. It was at that last event where we branched out into the world of fusion. Tempura chicken and vegetables, Chinese Cold Sesame Noodles, Sweet and Sour Meat Balls. Baba Ganoush dip with assorted raw vegetables.

At that last mentioned gig one Brooklyn Itralian type fellow in characteristic Brooklyn in your face style insistingly asked, "Where's the spaghetti?" I just as directly told him that he would like our food. Try it. In fact, he came back later and paid compliments.

We called ourselves the Polish Pavilion. Stanley and I are of Polish descent. And, the "pavilion" thing was going around in NYC. The Irish Pavilion. The Spanish Pavilion. So, you get how I came up with that idea.

Admittedly, we were nowhere near the level of innovation and complication to match the culinary stuntifications that diners in the Big Apple and other key world cities seem to expect now as a matter of course. Our efforts had more to do with introducing little known, but staple foods from distant cultures. And, combining them on the buffet table spread. Stuffed Vine Leaves from the Middle East. Baba Ganoush as a dip for Crudités. Meat Balls  à la  Orientale. Tempura Vegetables ... Chicken.

So, am I the father of Fusion Cuisine? I say ... Yes! Decide for yourself.

PS Stanley Mongin has gone on to his greater reward. His own #1 Daughter is a Chef. Now at the acclaimed restaurant Paradiso on the Emerald Isle.