Monday, July 30, 2007

Open Foot, Insert Mouth

It was another action-packed and highly eventful weekend in my little world, and it included, among other things, playing three sets of music with my band El Mirage on an organic farm and vineyard in the beautiful town of Healdsburg.

The food was fantastic, all of it locally grown and organic. The wine was lovely, also organic (hey Dad, you'll be getting your bottle soon, don't worry!). It was a gorgeous day and rumor has it that our music was enjoyed by all the merry wine drinkers.

Really, it was all perfect. There was even homemade bread by the owner of the vineyard, who baked it in his wood-fired oven. One of the women who works at the vineyard had earlier in the day told me about this bread, and I was looking forward to enjoying it. In fact, maybe I was just a little too excited, because when I met said baker-of-the-bread-and-owner-of-the-vineyard, I got my words all screwed up and I said to him "I HEAR YOU ARE QUITE THE BED BREAKER!" which he replied "Well, I can't guarantee that but I do bake some pretty good bread!" my face turned beet red.

Uh, yes, this was before I'd had anything to drink. Fortunately besides baking delicious bread and growing good things to eat and making fine wine and paying the entertainment well, he also has a sense of humor. Ha, and I bet he won't forget me now! And the band thought it was so funny that they've decided to change the name of our project from Val Esway & El Mirage to Val Esway & the Bed Breakers....coming soon to a winery near you!

Friday, July 27, 2007

And the Secret Ingredient is....

Just moments ago, I finished a great book. As a side note, I would add that I finished this great book while sitting at work, drinking a glass of wine. Yes, my job has many great perks! But I digress.

The book, which I read over the course of the last 24 hours, is called Coyote Cowgirl, by Kim Antieau. My friend Sue passed it on to me after I catered a dinner party at her house last weekend (Moroccan food for twelve, and it was sublimely delicious!)

Anyway, this book involves a few of my favorite things - food, and the desert. Without giving too much of the plot away, I can say that I was really struck by the fact that several of the main characters in the book had a sort of spiritual relationship with food. In this book, food is not only something you eat, but it's something that sustains you and nourishes you on a soul level. The cooks in this book put love and spirit into the dishes they created, asking the food to give nourishment to whomever ate it. Yep, the secret ingredient really is love!

It is so satisfying to create and prepare a dish that looks beautiful and tastes amazing, but even more satisfying to share that nourishment. Now I feel inspired to run out and buy beautiful tomatillos, fiery peppers, fragrant herbs and deep dark greens...and maybe call a few friends to enjoy whatever I end up creating with it...and I certainly can't think of a better way to end what has been a very long week.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


... you don't know what you're going to write until you sit down to write it, and the words fly out of your fingertips while you've barely had a chance to think of their meaning or edit yourself.

Sometimes, these are the best kinds of bits, because they come straight from the heart. And sometimes, these are the worst kind of bits, because they reveal parts of you that are perhaps best left inside your cluttered mind, where there is no one to offend or confuse or drive away - except yourself, that is...

But the problem is, you're always stuck with yourself; you can't run away from you! You can confuse yourself, and you could possibly offend yourself. But you can't drive yourself away. But oh, how we keep trying.

Believe me...there have been many times when I would like to find myself 10,000 miles away from myself.

Sometimes, you don't know why you're proclaiming the things that you're proclaiming as if these things were the gospel truth, because you know full well that soon you'll be singing a different tune, possibly even shouting it from the top of some mountaintop. You know this and it pisses you off a little bit to think that you could even be spending this much time pondering this subject. In the time it took you to write what you wrote, life and death and most everything in between circled around hundreds of times, and you sort of missed it.

Sometimes, it's good to remember to crank up your stereo, to be grateful, to keep your heart and mind open and your cup full. And maybe not to think quite so much.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


... thanks to a weekend that included hot sunshine, hot kitchens, hot stages, hot sauces, cool herbs, savory stew, sweet berries, strong coffee, strong beer, spicy wine, sweet friends, saucy music ... and, not nearly enough sleep.

But really, I can't complain. And in fact, I especially can't complain now as I sit here with the Joe Rut song Hole in Space cranked, with it doing to me what it does to me every time I listen to it, which is to just completely hypnotize me and take me to such a perfect place. It is the perfect soundtrack to the stillness of this moment that I have finally arrived at after a non-stop weekend. Thanks, Joe. Your song is a gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dress up your Greens

And now back to our regularly scheduled progamming...

I'm still enjoying cooking things that are green. Or rather, it keeps working out that I have green things in my fridge that need to be loved, and so I improvise based on little snippets of recipes that I recall from faded cookbooks and magazines of days gone by.

And sometimes, it turns out just right.

The other day I woke up at 7 am and was inspired to steam dinosaur kale, broccoli and zuchinni because I knew I wouldn't be home in the evenings for the rest of the week, and I wanted to make sure that it didn't go to waste. But I didn't have much time before work, so I did this:

Heated a little lemon-infused olive oil in a skillet and added a couple handfuls of pine nuts, several cloves of roughly chopped garlic, and a couple handfuls of currants. Sauteed it all until the garlic was al dente and the pine nuts were golden. Tossed it all over the steamed green goodies, and off to work we went. Although I just used what I had, I bet this would be delightful over basmati rice or pasta. And if you didn't have lemon-infused olive oil, you could use regular olive oil and give a squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end. Use what you have, including your imagination!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

First Impressions and Too Much Information

I was just thinking about first impressions, and how so many of us strive to put our best face forward. Of course, it's human nature, isn't it?

I mean, we all want to present ourselves as having our shit together, being grounded, being desirable and clever and evolved and just all around perfect, don't we? Yes! I do! I want to be perfect, or at least, I want you to think that I am! Or I want to somehow prove to myself that I am, or could be. But damnit, it takes so much work to keep up that kind of charade. Let's hear if for laziness and apathy!


I want to say this and so much more. I want to talk about the qualities you and I may find charming in one another at first but that we eventually will find grating upon our nerves like sandpaper across a chalk board. I want to meet you and disect you and find out what makes you tick and I want to love you and drive you away simultaneously so that I can sit around feeling sorry for myself and blaming you for my problems. And I want it to happen all in my mind so that I never have to risk anything and so that I never have to feel the coolness of your rejection.

I want to rail in that land of Too Much Information with more than just my own issues as entertainment... I want to hear all about yours neurotic ways, and then I want to sit around and psycho-analyze us all to death, so that I can firmly prove to myself that you are just as screwed up as me and then sit around feeling smug.

Yes, that's uh... what the voices in my head instructed me to write about tonight. Those voices are such cranky, buzzkilling little buggers, eh? But at least, they make us laugh. Or, they make me laugh. And in the end, laughter is what gets me through. So let's hear it for the voices! Woo hoo!

p.s. All the names have been changed to protect the guilty, and any resemblance in this story to any persons living or dead is just really tough shit.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

This about sums it up for me today...


"i need a man
to cook for me
don't need no fancy cars or diamond rings

the path to my heart
starts with the kitchen sink
so come on little daddy bring me to the brink

i got pots and pans
just waitin' for your hands
come on and show me how you're gonna be my man

i need a man
who's not afraid of heat
so come on little darlin' fix me something to eat

i like sugar now and i like salt
so come on my little daddy
show me what you've got

show me what you've got now

i need a man
who wants to jump in the pot
so come on my darlin
give me all that you've got

i got pots and pans
just waiting for your hands
come on and show me how you're gonna be my man"

.... anonymous...

... and on that note, i sure am hungry. now who's gonna feed me???!!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reno is Not for Sleeping

Yep, it's good to be back. Yesterday I drove a good 650 miles with my lovely dog as a companion. We listened to whatever tunes we could find over the Idaho and Nevada airwaves, which included such hits from the vault as Brick House by the Commodores, Halfbreed by Cher, and everyone's favorite Dust in the Wind by Kanas, which turned out to be perfectly appropriate when we blew through a massive dust storm near Winnemucca, NV.

I was so damn happy when we finally arrived in Reno, dreaming of a quiet place to rest my head for the evening after more than 9 hours of driving.

But see, the Motel 6 where we stayed was not quite spa-like. Oh no.... it was loud and creepy and the kind of place where you find yourself feeling ESPECIALLY grateful for your canine companion. I certainly was. But I still found the need to take the precautionary measures of blockading the door with a chair, and calling my brother and four of my friends to let them all know exactly where I was, just in case the monsters crawled out from under the bed and swallowed me up in the night.

To comfort myself, I wrote a song about a germ-phobic person (gee, I don't know ANYONE like that) who wants to dip themselves from head to toe in Purell in order to protect themselves from the cooties of the creepy Motel 6 bedspread. It was a great way to both distract myself and laugh at my neurotic ways.

There are more pics to come, and tales of beautiful scenery and good times taking place in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. But right now, I have to make up for the sleep I didn't get last night in Reno...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Greetings from Yellowstone, where the skies are endless blue and the sun is hot and the trees are plentiful, and I can already feel my stress levels decreasing. There will be more to come once I have real internet access, which may not happen until I get back to the bay area.. which I am in no hurry to do.

We have our own private swimming hole!

You can't see power lines or hear cars backfiring or fireworks or gunshots in the distance!

There is so much more to report but it will have to wait. For now, I have a cold beer awaiting me and it's just about time to go to the West Yellowstone Rodeo.

Yee haw!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Summer Green Soup for Superfreaks

Tonight's soup was thrown together based upon what I had on hand, which was mostly green stuff - broccoli, asparagus, frozen peas, and fresh zucchini from my neighbor's garden.

When I got in from running errands this afternoon, Miss NoNo had the stereo cranked with a really cool 70's funk compilation, featuring lots of great music by the likes of the Gap Band, Rick James, and so many more. This was about all I needed to get myself inspired to create something that would make me forget about the fowl mood I had previously been swimming in.

The soup was created by first plopping a couple of spoonfuls of clarified butter into the pot, and then slowly sauteing one diced medium sized onion over medium-low heat until it started to become nice and golden brown.

In the meantime, I peeled two medium russet potatoes and coarsely chopped them. I also coarsely chopped three cloves of garlic, three ribs of celery, two zucchini, one medium sized bunch of broccoli, and a half a bunch of asparagus.

Once the onions were nice & brown, I added the garlic to the pot and stirred for a couple minutes. Next, the celery and potatoes joined the party in the pot and were sauteed for another ten minutes or so until they started to soften. After that, in went the zucchini, asparagus and broccoli, plus a smattering of frozen peas that had been sitting around feeling lonely in the freezer. I added enough water to cover it all, plus a little dollop of tomato paste, and brought the heat up to get it boiling, then turned it down to a simmer and let it all mingle for another ten minutes or so with the lid on the pot, till everything was more or less done.

Next, it was time to practice patience while the soup sat on a cooling rack in the kitchen cooling down. What better way to pass the time but to turn the stereo up louder and take a luxurious shower? Worked for me!

It was now time to puree the soup, pour it back into the pan, and season with a little dried oregano, dill and thyme, add a couple generous splashes of half & half, plus one generous tablespoon of pesto. After all, the soup's theme was green, and I just happened to have the pesto lying around.

Finally, it was time to serve the soup, and I also happened to have sour cream in the fridge, a dollop of which was added to the bowl and then swirled into the green goodness. If I'd had fresh herbs, they would've no doubt made an appearance, but sometimes you've just gotta work with what you've got on hand and if you're lucky, everything works out beautifully.

The Devil & Daniel Johnston...

...I just watched this most incredible film The Devil & Daniel Johnston w/ a few friends, and...WOW.

So beautiful and inspiring and painful and raw. Such an amazing story about a real person who is an artist in the true sense of the word.

It made me laugh, and practically cry, and drop my jaw and say "HOLY SHIT" more than once.

I'd been hearing about Daniel Johnston for years and now I finally get it. I love it when that happens.