Tag Archives: North Carolina

Norma Schafer’s Red Tail Grains Cornbread–Dairy + Gluten Free

We are confined to a smaller lifestyle. There are limitations to what we can do, where we can go, who we can see. Many of us are suffering loss of income, family contact, financial well-being. Some of us don’t know if we can keep our homes or make the next rent payment.

I yearn for Oaxaca. I yearn to take small groups of travelers into indigenous villages in pursuit of understanding and to explore the textile traditions. I perfected a cornbread recipe in Oaxaca where I went to my local mill down the street to buy organic meal. They grind the finest cornmeal and I could not find it here — until now!

redtailgrains@gmail.com or www.redtailgrains.com

For now, I’m stuck in Durham, North Carolina until it is safe to travel again. Many of us are stuck somewhere, physically or metaphorically. (There are worse places to be stuck!) For solace, I turn to cooking — that great leveler of creative output. This falls into the category of comfort food.

At the Durham Farmer’s Market (I go early when it is safe and there are fewer people), I discovered Red Tail Grains from Mebane, NC. I’ve been using their fine stone ground corn meal for several months. It makes the finest cornbread, perfect for my lactose-free and gluten-free diet. It yields a cake-like texture with a fine crumb. I season it up like a spice cake but add Hatch Chili powder for a Mexico-style kick. Great with morning coffee, too!

Ingredients/Recipe:

  • 1 C. Red Tail Cateto Orange Heirloom Flint Corn
  • 1-1/2 C. Gluten-Free Flour (almond flour or King Arthur brand)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Hatch chili powder
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 T. ground turmeric
  • 2 T. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1-1/2 C. almond milk or other plant-based milk
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 7 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 1/2 C. sugar

Note: To make this VEGAN, use butter and egg substitutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients and grated ginger in a mixing bowl. Make a well. Combine milk and vinegar and let it sit to clabber for at least five minutes. Beat together eggs and sugar. Add all liquid ingredients to the well and mix until thoroughly combined into a cake-like batter — the consistency of pancake mix.

Prepare a baking pan. I use a 10″ cast iron skillet, well-seasoned, lined with parchment paper. You can also use an 8″ x 8″ square glass baking dish, greased. I would also recommend lining same with parchment paper.

Pour batter into baking pan. Put onto middle rack of preheated oven. Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Cut into squares. Will keep refrigerated for one week or you can freeze successfully.

Enjoy!

Fresh from the oven! Can you smell it?

Fight, Flight or Hide: Danger, Covid-19, A Rant

North Carolina rates of infection are on the rise. We are in the Bruised Red, Uncontrolled Category. This is alarming. We may not be in the Top 5 outbreaks in the Southern States, but we are inching there. Wherever we are, whomever we are, we are at risk. And, in the face of what we perceive as danger, our normal response — according to the mental health experts — is to either run away or fight.

These days, many of us are also in hiding. I should be in hiding because I’m a fighter with a loud voice. No amount of precautions help me. No mask wearing. No frequent washing and using hand sanitizer. No six-feet of social distancing. Mostly because others don’t adhere to the guidelines.

NC Governor Roy Cooper extended Stay at Home Orders on July 16 to August 7, 2020. This includes:

WHEREAS, in Executive Order No. 141, issued on May 20, 2020, the undersigned urged that all people in North Carolina follow social distancing recommendations, including that everyone wear a cloth face covering, wait six (6) feet apart and avoid close contact, and wash hands often or use hand sanitizer; to reduce COVID-19 spread.

I made a mistake today. I went food shopping mid-Sunday morning to the Harris-Teeter supermarket in my Durham neighborhood. Why? I promised to help a friend.

Most were behaving pretty well. Everyone was masked. I stopped to allow people to pass me and made a wide swing around others when there was space. There were definitely more people in the store than at 8 a.m. on Mondays and Thursday, The Senior Hour.

In Produce, I hovered around the potatoes, onions and squash eyeing the best before touching. Okay. I’m not Speedy Gonzalez. A late 20’s-something (hard to tell with the mask on) swooped in three inches from me to pick an onion.

Excuse me, he said, as he reached in front of me, body leaning in my direction.

I said, incredulously, What are you doing? You are supposed to stay six feet away!

I said Excuse Me, he said, and turned his back on me, setting off.

Excuse me doesn’t cut it, I screamed through my mask. Do you think he heard me. I kept shouting, You are supposed to stay six feet away.

He went to another aisle, stone faced. I noticed he had a very short cropped haircut, shaved close to the neck. I wondered if that meant anything.

How dare you? I continued across the expanse of strawberries, peaches and blueberries, as if that would help lower my anxiety. Everyone else stayed far away.

I’m scary, right. I scream Stay Away.

Now, I’m smarter than this. I should know better than to go out food shopping on Sunday, when Duke students are starting to return, when the weekend habit of procuring vittles is ingrained in many.

There would have been any number of online choices: Instacart has been a delivery mainstay with choices such as Sprouts, Fresh Market and Durham Food Co-op. I have also shopped for pick-up at Harris-Teeter and at Whole Foods. I reconciled my decision based on some specialty needs for my friend.

Meanwhile, I must forgive myself, do better to calculate risk and remember to #stayinhiding and #staysafe and depend more on available services. I must stay conscious.

Life depends on it.

Oaxaca Return: Voy a Regresar and Packing

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 11, is my travel day back to Oaxaca where I’ll stay put for a while. Yet, I tell myself it’s good to be where you are now. No looking back, no regrets, no living out into the future but to appreciate each gift of the moment. Today, I will connect with friends. Sip a G&T.

Packing challenges the assumptions of being here now. It makes me concentrate on what I will need and how much to take. It’s like cleaning up and getting ready. There’s no avoiding the planning that is required. I have one day to do it.

Perhaps, I should retitle this post, “Taming the Wilderness.” There is metaphor in this.

Truck with tattoo at the funeral

Yesterday, I went to a funeral at the farm where I lived for ten years with the wasband. The matriarch founder, age 93, passed early this week and my going was a tribute to her life — and mine, then and now. As I walked along the gravel road to the on-site graveyard, I passed the familiar and the unknown. It was strangely similar yet dramatically different. The cottage in which I lived is now inhabited by the next wife (there have been a series of them) and the gardens I once tended were overgrown, unrecognizable.

I passed people I knew and didn’t. They were known and unknown. We have aged. Some of us more gracefully. The wasband’s hair was wilder and he had built some girth. I wish I could say we exchanged pleasantries. It reminded me of where I am now and my gratitude for being here at home in Durham, North Carolina, and Oaxaca, Mexico.

The dirt to cover the cardboard casket was red clay Carolina. Each shovel-full was heavy and thoughtful. Life is where it takes us and there is reverence in each single act we do.

Poppies at the side of the farm road

Being there reminded me, too, about what I do to try to tame the wilderness. I attempted this, too, in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, by planting fruit trees — orange, lemon, avocado, guava. Ants consumed them. I gave up and planted cactus. These are sturdy and well-designed for the climate, to survive and repel the critters. There is a reason that the high desert is filled with native plants.

Here in North Carolina I have no living plants. My flowers are woven into the textiles around the apartment. When I leave early in the morning, I walk out and lock the door. It is easy. I am coming to learn my limitations.

Next Episode: On my return home. The other home.

A walk with friends on the Eno River, Hillsborough, NC

Party Aside, Say No To Hate and Please VOTE Today

The polling place is across the street from me at the Durham School of the Arts. Last night the signs began to proliferate.

At this moment, the wind is blowing strong from the southwest. Atop the flag pole, the Stars and Stripes unfurl, waving and below is the Old North State flag bearing dates that testify to North Carolina’s leadership in America’s 1775 independence movement.

I’m on the top floor of my building and I see this every day. It is part of the landscape and I don’t pay much attention. Today is different.

I voted two weeks ago. If you haven’t, please do so today.

I’m not a flag-waver and yet, I see the flags as symbols of our imperfect union, symbol of the ideals of democracy, symbol of hope, symbol of a country that opens its outstretched arms to refugees in every generation, of acceptance for differences, in the belief that together in our diversity we are stronger.

Whatever your political persuasion, please vote to reunite our country in hope rather supporting the rhetoric of destruction and division. I believe that this rhetoric gives permission to people to act out with AK-47s, pipe bombs, and voter suppression. We can put a stop to this.

I live in North Carolina to vote, to connect with friends, to access excellent university-based medical care if needed. Voting is a responsibility, a right and a privilege. I have a commitment to make this country the best it can be.

 

Please exercise yours.

Tonight, my friend Karen and I will create our own Downtown Durham Election Night Crawl, starting at the Beyu Caffe jazz and supper club on Main Street, to watch early election night results. Neither of us have a television and we don’t want to be isolated.

Where will you be?

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead: Talking With the Ancestors

The altar is complete. Dia de los Muertos — Day of the Dead– 2018 has passed. The difuntos, spirits of the ancestors, have returned to their resting places content that we have welcomed them back to earth for the day to celebrate their lives. Some of us talk to our parents, ask their advice, admonish them for shortcomings, appreciate the gift of life.

Mexicans know how to honor their generations with this day that is considered more important than any in family and community life.

El Dia de los Muertos is the homecoming of the spirits of the dead all over Mexico, a reunion of the dead and the living. The old ones say that when the spirits come back to the world of the living, their path must be made clear, the roadway must not be slippery with the wet flood of human tears.

-Salvatore Scalora, Flowers and Sugar Skulls for the Spirits of the Dead,                   Home Altars of Mexico, 1997

The Calavera Painter clay figure above is for sale. $75 USD plus $8 mailing.

I am not attempting to appropriate a culture that I haven’t been born into. I participate and create Dia de los Muertos to learn more about how to accept the transition from life to death and the continuum and cycles of life. It is a devotional practice like meditation and prayer. Finding comfort is essential for the human spirit.

Last night, a few friends gathered here at home in Durham, North Carolina, to pay tribute to those who have gone before us. Mostly parents and grandparents. They brought photographs to place on the altar.

Photographs, a recent phenomenon, help us remember. In Teotitlan del Valle, photos were not placed on altars until the 1960’s. It is said that after two generations, memory of a particular person is lost. Storytelling, recalling favorite foods, jokes, clothes, activities was and is essential to remembering especially in the absence of visual clues. 

We sat around in a circle sharing our memories, comparing how we prepare for death and dying here in the USA with Mexico. Of course, this depends on our personal upbringings and spiritual beliefs, and whether there is any ritual associated with remembering those who died.

I could imagine, as we sipped wine, beer and mezcal, ate tamales and enchiladas, and told stories of mothers and fathers and grandparents and siblings, that we could have sat around a family gravesite in Teotitlan del Valle, laughing, bringing up tears and feeling connected — to each other and to those who passed on.

We told stories about the love of music, literature, eating and drinking, a good joke, growing up on humble southern farms, sprawling suburbs, gritty city centers, of immigrant and refugee families, of missing a sibling to reminisce and remember details. Someone said that one never recovers from the loss of a mother, another that her father was the most important support in her life. We were real, talking about function, dysfunction and love.

Next year, 2019, I will be in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, with Professor Robin Greene. We will be leading the Day of the Dead Women’s Writing Retreat. A year away and we are half-filled — five spaces open. Will you join us?

The Aztecs, I read, believed that death fed life, that human sacrifice was necessary to feed the earth to make sure there is enough rain, fertile seeds and soil, an abundance of food. Death was not feared but celebrated, honored, even welcomed.

Zapotecs practiced ancestor worship and buried their dead in the courtyard of family homes so they would be close and could consult with them regularly. Bones are swept aside every ten years to make room for the next ancestor in the same resting space. This is still common in many villages.

I honor my parents and grandparents by remembering them. Sometimes, I feel they are with me, especially when I am saying or doing something that is exactly as they would have said or done it (or so it feels). I think about my own mortality and try not to be afraid, to accept the natural order of life that is synonymous with death. Will I live on? Yes, in the memories of my family and those I have touched. Is there comfort in that? Perhaps.

Day of the Dead diorama, tin, handmade. For Sale. $85 USD plus $8 mailing. Folds flat.

As we search for meaning, for connection, for intimacy, Day of the Dead gives us pause to examine our own lives and those who came before, those who gave us life, and to ride the tailwinds and not fight the headwinds.

Do you observe Day of the Dead? Where? How?