Amazing Peace

This poem by Maya Angelou was one of the readings at our Candlelight Service last night.  With it, I wish the world Peace for Christmas.

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

By Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.

It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.

Peace.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
implore you to stay awhile with us
so we may learn by your shimmering light
how to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices to celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace.
We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace.
We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul

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Dante’s Chef’s Table

I was honored with a surprise birthday gift last week from a dear friend: dinner at the chef’s table in the kitchen at Dante. It was just the two of us seated at a private booth in the midst of all the action and we had an amazing evening. We were escorted to the table and left with a wine list and a cocktail list, but no menus. Dante Boccuzzi himself stepped over to the table and introduced himself. His only questions regarded allergies (none) and the number of courses (seven). With that simple preamble, we were off!

First up was a deceptively simple plate of tuna sushi. Hawaiian big eye tuna, delicately rolled with rice, wasabi and nori, topped with a sliver of foie gras and briefly torched to melt the liver over the sushi. This garnish, along with a sprinkling of crisp rice, really took things to the next level. Next up was a tower that began with a thin round of hearts of palm, then a crunchy tempura of shiitake and finally a deliriously fatty slice of hamachi. A shot of yuzu foam covered the fish and helped to cut the intense richness of this plate. The chef’s training at Nobu in Milan was clearly at play here.

An enormous butter poached shrimp followed. Resting atop roasted fingerling potatoes, laying alongside was a swath of spicy sweet corn puree, some sauteed corn kernels and a few leaves of baby spinach. A crumble of toasted cornbread, scattered across the plate, gave a little nudge of crunch to the plate.

A crispy piece of roasted Pacific sea bass was next, served with tender braised radishes and meltingly soft polenta. A pair of luscious dayboat sea scallops came over next, quickly seared and plated with some gorgeous, meaty mushrooms and sauteed watercress, the whole thing sauced with decadent hollandaise. The final savory course was a few slices of rare rib-eye steak, nestled atop a bunch of flash-fried watercress. House pickled ramps provided a welcome, tangy relief to the parade of richness.

By now, more than two hours have passed, along with a couple of cocktails and glasses of wine. We settle back in our seats and are presented with a miniature pre-dessert: poached local peaches, vanilla ice cream and a tiny spoonful of hot caramel to pour over the whole thing. It was luscious and we felt stuffed. The pastry chef, though, had different ideas. After a personal consultation at our table, she brought us two different plates. The first was a blackberry buttermilk panna cotta, cool and fragile, trembling like a lady’s decolletage. Topped with a white chocolate dipped shortbread, it was amped up with a scoop of intense raspberry sorbet. (All the flavors of sorbet and ice cream are made in house.) The other plate was centered around a twice baked brownie wrapped in crispy phyllo dough. This was accented with a seasonal stone fruit compote and a cubical “scoop” of pink peach sorbet.

At this point he kitchen had quieted down considerably and the chef came over to spend a few minutes with us. We talked about our personal favorite restaurants in New York, about his experience there, and about how much we had enjoyed our dinner. The final treat of the night, presented to all guests at Dante, is a rolling cart laden with candy. Everything from DumDum suckers and Tootsie Rolls to exotic imported hard candies, we were just too full and asked for a bag of goodies to take home with us.

All told, we had spent more than three hours at table and consumed way more calories than I care to think about. It was a magical evening, made all the more special by the company I was lucky enough to share it with. I’ll remember this one for a long time!

Do YOU give a damn?

People willing to speak truth to power.  Please watch the video and learn more.

Peace.

The Baker’s Magic Hour

2:00 in the afternoon and she’s been on her feet for 10 hours at this point. The coffee and malformed croissant she nabbed off the tray at opening some seven hours ago are long gone, having given up their energy for the morning production. She now faces a prep list of some length. Alone in the kitchen, she pauses to eat. She mindlessly nibbles on a bowl of salad. She spares the washing of the fork by pinching the greens with her bare fingers. She stares into the empty space around her. She tears at pieces of a rough brown loaf and dips them in a small bowl of olive oil left from dressing the focaccia. She is awaiting the second (or third) wind that she’ll need to get through the remainder of the day.

“Are you sure you don’t want us to stay?” asked her coworkers an hour ago. She insisted she would be fine, that she only wanted to get a few things prepped for the morning. There was levain to feed; two cookie doughs to measure out and mix up; one more turn on the croissant dough was required; then the cleaning at the end. Good God, she thought, I’ll be here two more hours! Better get started.

With the dish man gone, she carefully reuses measuring cups and spatulas. Earlier in the day, with the whole scene humming along, people are almost reckless with their use of utensils. The parsimony of the late day is a welcome respite from that frenzy. One worker, one project at a time. There can be found, once again, the joy and the zen that brought her to these ovens in the first place.

The pull of the pile of bills waiting in the office falls away. The thought of writing next week’s schedule takes a backseat to the magic of flour and water in the bowl. There are only the few ingredients before her and the alchemy that heat and time and mixing can bring to them. The point of the business is solely the second word in the name: Bakery. All the other expectations can be set aside for now…for this magic hour in the kitchen.

Hiding behind your phone

As she approaches the cash register with a full cart, she is just-short-of yelling into her phone.  I TOLD HIM I WOULD NOT RESPOND TO HIS TEXTS ANYMORE.  HE IS ALWAYS TEXTING ME BUT HE WON’T TALK TO ME.  WHY CAN’T HE PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL ME LIKE A NORMAL PERSON?   HE IS HIDING BEHIND HIS PHONE!!

This loud, frustrated monologue went on as the cashier scanned and bagged dozens of items.  Four bags into the shopping cart, the credit card already swiped and signed, the receipt printing out, she says into the phone, finally, I GOTTA GO.  I’M CHECKING OUT AT THE STORE.  The cashier hands her the slip and says Thank You!  The lady wheels out her cart of groceries, oblivious.  Exactly who was it that was hiding behind their phone?