Sunday, July 08, 2007

Conversation Recap for July 8, 2007

Another perfect day in the Northwest, many Conversation members were in a mood to hug.

We began with an exercise in communication. We divided into those who can see but not speak, and those who could speak but not see, with a task in organization. It showed us that many of our attempts at communication are unintelligible. The normal conventions of conversation obscure the ambiguities. People have different communication skills and techniques, and the exercise demonstrates the importance of our approaches to working with others. Oppositional conversation strategies are quite common in this world of ours. Many of the observations after the exercise looked at the complications of leadership, how it can emerge spontaneously, and subtly. Another theme we discussed was the development of how we work together. We each had to figure out how to play this game, and very different strategies emerged. And, many attempts at communication were not interpreted as intended. Many of us prefer to avoid uncertainty, and we want to understand the expectations in a situation. Classrooms are often structured around clear expectations, objectives, and behavioral requirements for everyone in the room, and exercises like this suggest there are many more things going on in learning. Several people noted the importance of having objectives for learnings, and at the same time creating the space for creativity.

This morning we heard Tina’s Story.

The discussion that followed examined the expectations we have in life, and how the ones commonly offered are sometimes difficult to reconcile with the seeing and doing something about justice issues. We also discussed how growing up we hear racist comments, and develop responses. Some times we make new sense of how those things emerged, a long time ago. Families can do a number on us, so to speak. Recall that phrase, “If you listen to my story, you won’t be able to hate me.” And, the popular culture images of the rural or small-town America, in a golden age, can lay claim to that story only because they ignore the racism, sometimes in subtle forms, and in some places outright systems of terror. We were reminded that many towns were ‘bucolic,’ in the sense of being safe and peaceful, a good place to live, during slavery.

We went over the schedule for the next couple of months. Remember, it along with the bigger documents that we sometimes refer to in notes, as well as some descriptions of earlier events in The Conversation, are found at

We heard from Rosalind on the food we eat, part 2. We reconvened in the kitchen to discuss food over food.

In the kitchen, Rosalind set up an array of both packaged and basic foods—like, a box of crackers and a collard green. Several people confessed to their own foodisms, such as indulging too much in chocolate or carbs or sugar, or other things.

She shared several books to illustrate ideas about food and living. They included Michio Kushi’s book on cancer prevention, which emphasizes natural foods, vegetarian, and low inflammation foods. Another was about Ayurvedic foods (kitcheri recipe included below). Another advocated getting enough water (probably more than you drink now). Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Someone mentioned a middle eastern shop at 6th & Mildred.

Rosalind emphasized the importance of storing your food, including spices, in glass, not plastic.

We discussed limes, and Rosalind emphasized using as much of the whole lime as possible, including zesting the peel—it is where most of the nutrients are found. Someone suggested the highest use of a lime is in a gin & tonic.

She also described the importance of chewing whole foods that take a while to chew—your chewing begins many important processes that you use to pick up nutrients.

She passed around ginger slices, fresh, which is one of the ‘stars of the show’ when it comes to anti-inflammation. And she had us dip it into sea salt, which besides tasting great sets up more complete digestion of the ginger.

She talked about garlic for a while, and mentioned how you can use it raw, rubbed on sores, and cooked in various ways. It is anti-inflammatory, too.

She showed us a bowl of black beans, cooked. The darker the beans, the more antioxidants they contain. You can use asafoetida with it, if concerned about ‘illness.’ And there is always good old ‘Beano.’

She put together a tortilla piece that contained garlic (lots of cloves), cabbage (covered the garlic in the pan during steaming), a little olive oil, some red pepper, and a piece of sardine. Lightly fry the garlic, then steam it on low heat for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, then add the red pepper. Roll it up and eat. Oh, man, I’m going to do this at home.

Chili peppers have many, many benefits. Red pepper comes from them. Rosalind encourages everyone who doesn’t like it to give them a try. Mmmmm, red pepper.

Flax seed oil! (Your notetaker’s optometrist told him to take flax seed oil each day as prevention for dry eyes.)

Turmeric is used very widely in Indian cooking, and is used as an anti-inflammation agent. The guy who runs the Indian/Sikh store in the B&I, a good place to get a lot of the spices here, will tell you about turmeric. Careful, it makes things yellow.

Lots of folks liked the collards—stir fried up (they steam well) with garlic, cayenne, cumin, turmeric, and a little sea salt.

Several people expressed gratitude at the simple, tasty and healthy ideas.

Onions are cousins to Garlic, close family—and she argues they are very good for you in the same way as garlic. Uses them a lot, like garlic one of those foods that sweeps away various things you might not want in you.

Once the group had eaten, we retired back to the meeting room.

The group went over planning for the MLK event. Last year’s discussions of King’s writings, and how he has been treated in the celebrations, led to the organization of this past January’s event, that focused on the prophetic vision. Many of you remember how it went. The mission statement for that event mentioned this was to be an annual event, and something that complements the other events celebrating MLK in Tacoma.

Dexter read the overall vision statement. Last year planning starting late, about December 6. A group of about 8 people put it together, and perhaps half of that group will return to help this year, along with others who will join it. Dexter has lists of people and businesses that supported the event last year. Support is easier to get if we approach supporters early.

This year (2008) it will be Sunday, January 20. For people interested, we will set up an email list, circulate information, talk about program, place, and all of the details.

The planning group will be open, so that if people show up later and wish to contribute, we will allow that.

Last year the group emphasized that the event keep a distinct South Sound flavor, including local artists who work for social justice, and be very high quality. Also, we want to be able to pay the artists who are often called on to do things like this for social justice.

If we meet in July, we will want to get the fundraising started. We can do bimonthly meetings until November and December, when weekly meetings might be needed.

We discussed venue. Urban Grace, St. Charles, Lincoln, Bellarmine, and Mt. Tahoma were mentioned as possibilities. Volunteers were assigned to check the availability of each place.

The planning group will next meet on July 26, a Thursday, at 5:00, at 3901 N. 37th.

Mung Dal Kitchari (Vata)

• 1 cup basmati rice, white or brown. This makes very good leftovers, and the texture on the leftovers is far better if you use brown rice.
• ½ cup split mung dal. Much of the yellow mung dal contains food coloring, and after experiments I like the regular unhulled split mung dal.
• A tblsp. ghee
• 1 tsp black or brown mustard seeds (black allegedly have more flavor)
• 1 tsp cumin seeds
• 2 pinches hing (asafoetida)
• 1 tsp tumeric, and it is fine to double this, more if you like.
• ½ tsp salt
• 4 cups water, I use vegetable stock. If you soak the dal for 4 or more hours, as maybe you should, cut this to 3 ½ cups water.
• chopped fresh ginger, maybe 2 tablespoons, adjust to taste.
• garlic, chopped, not in original recipe but I like it. Adjust to taste.

Rinse rice and mung dal. If you have time, soak the mung dal in water for 3 or 4 hours, and 24 hours is fine if you like to plan ahead. (If no time for soaking, you can aid digestibility by heating the dal in water to the boiling point, then dousing in cold water, repeat 2 or 3 times. Some folks if sensitive, use Beano.)

Do all measuring, chopping, spice mixes first, then start the heat.
Heat a good-sized pan, on medium. When it is up to temperature, add the ghee, mustard seeds, cumin, and hing. Stir or shake pan for a couple of moments until the mustard seeds start to pop.

Add chopped ginger (and garlic) and stir for a very short time.

Add the rice, mung dal, tumeric, and salt, stir to blend all with spices.

Add the water, bring to a boil. For white rice, let boil for 5 minutes uncovered, then turn to low and cover. Cook 20-25 more minutes, add 10 if in Boulder or higher elevations. For brown rice, leave out the mung dal for 20 minutes while you boil the rice and spices, then add the dal and let cook for 25 more minutes.

For serving, you can use whatever steamed vegetables are seasonal or to your taste. Try:
• beets, sliced and steamed, and beat greens, steamed.
• carrots, sliced and steamed, and chard or collards, chopped and steamed. Sliced steamed yams worked very well, as did bok choy.
• We always serve with chopped fresh ginger, slices of lime. Also good to have chopped cilantro, ghee, and your favorite hot sauces available, maybe some Bragg’s or regular soy sauce. Let each person adjust the mix. I’ve heard coconut is good with it.