there is always a peculiar sensation that takes over, when in the midst of the week between Christmas and New Year's Day -- or is it just me?
Granted, this feeling is compounded that much more, given the absence of nearly a week due to the annoyances that come with the common cold;but it's funny how the mind works, it is so easy to get squirrel-ly over the things we wished to have happen in the last year, coupled with the things that actually do, and then combined with that which I have no recollection whatsoever as I was buried in the sheets in a NyQuil slumber.
As the fog lifts, and the business as usual takes hold, all the thoughts of the year almost past, meets up with a glorious southern California day outside, while the future rests in the hands of the destiny yet to be illuminated.
It is exciting, almost invigorating -- yet, the angst and worries of this last year still remain -- so the dichotomy of emotions toy with me; surely pushing and pulling me into crazy town, if I were to let all my inhibitions go at the same time.
The absence of my girl this week is startling and noticeable, as it is just way too quiet; so what does a girl do, when no one to cook for is in the room, let alone in view, a few steps away, or calling out for something to eat in regular intervals -- she watches the Travel Channel, the Food Network -- anything that can take me world's away in a flash.
And may I extend a heartfelt gratitude to you, Anthony Bourdain, who turned out to be everything I ever wanted in a stolen afternoon with no real responsibility to be seen, or heard from, in a day. As it just so happened, it was a day set aside for a Bourdain marathon!
One after the other, in some obscure neighborhood across the globe, dining on the sublime to the not so fine, the rock star of being super cool, while eating the innards and out-turds of just about anything that moves, conversing with the locals over shots of whiskey and beer, pontificating about life, liberty and the pursuit of world peace over a plate of good food, made his way into my living room and into my heart. Totally love struck for the duration, from Vietnam to Columbia, Panama to Tokyo, I couldn't take my eyes off his scene.
Having watched him many times before, something about yesterday was different; I felt a certain self interest as to what he was telling me, personally, and tried to take it all in as if he were speaking just to me, to see where that would lead me...kind of like the old Buddhist saying, "when the student is ready, the teacher appears.."
And there it was, in the middle of an itty bitty Yakitori Bar and Grill, as Bourdain and his Tokyo tour-guide were laughing it up over the nearly raw chicken they were about to put in their mouth, it hit me: the Japanese don't seem to have an FDA, of sorts, they have no regulations on how long a meat must cook, and they pretty much survive, trusting that the restaurateur and the restauran-tee are completely happy and satisfied with one another within the dynamics of a shared experience and commercial transaction. That's funny, isn't it?
And listening to the Japanese native, describing the daily workings of this one restaurateur was in a word, amazing. For this little shop in Tokyo, which specializes in simply making yakitori, really, truly, turns the makings of yakitori into an art form (as in most things they do as a culture-- as a people, they inherently lean to finding and creating the natural beauty, no matter what they are doing).
So with great consideration, this yakitori-shogun-chef begins the day, looking over his farm raised chickens, and with his own hands, takes the life from the very chicken he will serve later in the day; with full honor and integrity, following customs passed down for generations, grateful for the bread of life that the bird freely gives, the process comes full circle with life, death, bringing new life, with none of it, as it would appear, being taken for granted.
He carefully trims the meat -- using the bones, the organs, the entire body of the bird for other things -- and makes every meal to order from a place of reverence, for not only the chicken who gave his life, but for the life of the customer who sits at the bar about to partake in it's bounty. Everything is sacred; nothing is spared attention to detail; while every bite seems protected as if held under some kind of culinary godliness and holiness.
The yakitori restaurateur serves not only the skewered teriyaki chicken fresh off the grill, but even takes choice pieces to add to a simple bowl of broth and herbs and spices, hardly cooking the chicken at all -- what, as we gasp at the sight of pale pink meat floating at the top of the colorful ceramic vessel -- stop, how can you even think about eating such a thing?!
No worries; as in the natural phenomenon that occurs in the midst of any game of truth and consequences, if the chicken is healthy, if the chef takes good care, if the integrity of the action is safely held from start to finish -- what's to worry about it? The chef works with honor -- rest assured, if the chef did not, people might die, or at the very least, get really sick, and his business would surely falter. The consequences of serving up anything less than a delightful meal is far too great, and most of all, beneath the standard set for himself.
No government regulation is needed, if, in fact, you set out to do the right thing for all concerned (including the big fat chicken).
This land we call America was designed to work like this; funny how far off the mark we have grown. The A-ratings that our restaurateurs live by don't seem to save us, protect us from harm, or keep us from experiencing the ills of food borne discomfort and complications, sometimes even death.
The only thing that really protects us at this level, is the integrity of every food handler along the way -- and oh the number of hands our food comes in contact...how we would lose count in our complicated world from farm to family. How we must trust each and every one of us to do the right thing all along the way -- as mind boggling as it may be -- is paramount to the root cause of all that we do, how we do it, and if we will be successful at it from here on out.
Of course, don't even get me started on the lack of regulation against serving an endangered sea turtle at a local cabana bar and grill, on the beaches of Columbia -- hello? You think Greenpeace, or the like, would venture down in 'dem dare parts to see what's up, just sayin'.
Or how about the city buses, all individually owned and operated and PAINTED, colorfully and flamboyantly to distinguish one neighborhood bus from the next, who just a few years back were confronted by the Columbian government to ban together, become uniform, streamlined, and "organized" for the betterment of the whole -- and they said NO. no way, Jose, nada, never in my life time. comprende?
but I digress.
What is spinning in the back of my mind is how so much of the rest of the world has no regulations -- they live and let live, and try as they might to act with honor, respective of their cultural norms and ritual, in keeping with their inherent need to preserve the integrity of their people as a whole all the while! Fantastic.
America seems to be doing just the opposite these days...
America is the endangered species.
America is the individually owned and operated, multi-colored bus line.
America must return to the A-rating just because...it's the right thing to do; and we don't need government to do it for us, or tell us how, or control who gets what, when and for how much. The right thing to do never changes; and to that end, having the integrity of finding the natural beauty and honor in all things would serve us well in our days to come.
thank you, Bourdain!
Hourly packaged in your irreverent, yet compassionate, style, the foreign world you present to us may not be that unfamiliar; for it rekindles the spirit at the heart of things past, present and future, centering from the virtues of family and food and the everlasting faith in who we are, where we came, and where we go from here.
Starting locally, maybe as close as our own cupboards, what we choose to pass on to our children, by design or by consequence, and especially by the love and example we share over a warm meal, is the only thing that matters. IF we all choose to do it well, with honor -- perhaps even with no reservations -- half the battle would be won already.
make it a good day, G
and play your song today, click on dear america