Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bus Me

I like riding the bus. Since the price of gas has gone down I almost always get a seat to myself and enjoy the ride. My work schedule varies from day to day, so does the bus I ride. Some of the drivers recognize me, but they don't know me, the way they know their regulars. I read on the bus, I daydream, sometimes I talk on the phone. At least once a week on the way home I find myself calling the members of my little sub-team one after the other to give instructions for the next day. Often I take a brief nap.

I'm not alone sleeping on the bus and I don't ride on the bus with anyone weird. The people who ride my bus are nurses, professors, lawyers, accountants, people who work for the city or the state, college students, the minister's wife who sells the paintings she makes on the bus every day
(, another bus driver or two and me.

Early in the morning the laptops are out, commuters without machines sleep or read. It is very quiet.

In the afternoon, especially on the buses the nurses take, a festive atmosphere ensues. All the moms check in with children or spouses and then the party begins, chattering like magpies about everything under the sun. Most of the men shrink a little, take seats towards the rear. Buses in the next hour are full of city and state workers, quieter, speaking softly, reading, dozing. Buses after 6PM are full of students. Often this is the most serious group. Grown-ups are done for the day, students must go home and be studious, or work.

Yes, I like riding the bus. It is the getting on and off I have problems with. A chinese girl who sits near me has me wake her when we reach her stop. She sleeps deeply and has ridden to the end of the line more than once. I've never slept through my stop, but I've read through it more than once. The buses I take after dark are nearly empty when I get on, and have become nearly empty again for the twenty minute express section of my commute. I turn on the little light above my seat, just like on an airplane and soon I am lost. The bus is pitch dark and quiet, just me and whichever written world I have entered. The bus driver does not like it when I scramble to the front as he is pulling away from the park and ride station. He is not supposed to let passengers off anywhere excepting his proper bay. But he does and I am grateful. The next stop is in the next town. When I ride to the end of the line in the morning it is not so tragic, only a few blocks beyond my stop. I have looked up to find the driver bending over me, laughing, asking don't I want to get off.

Austin is currently in the middle of SXSW (South by Southwest) our own little Mardi Gras, or it feels like it, though it isn't really the same. Every school child and university student in the Austin area has spring break the concurrently. The students and the families leave town, the film and music people invade. People watching, always pretty good around Whole Foods World Headquarters, becomes breathtaking. The energy just walking the six blocks from there to the bus stop swirls you up. Dancing will break out any minute.

Street closures and sheer humanity play a little hell with the buses. Today I got on the one just in front of my bus. The first bus was NOT supposed to be there, it should have left ten minutes before. The bus driver didn't recognize me, almost asked me if I was in the right place, but did not. He apologized. I said please don't worry, because he was. I rode half way home and he bent over me, this is my last stop, don't you want to get off?

It was a beautiful day, the bench was comfortable. I waited 25 minutes for the next bus, the one going to the right place. I read, but not much, no time to get lost again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

More Me

This blog will be about cooking, eating, food, nutrition, books, writing, friends, work and life observed. The food part is on my mind at the moment. I write this mission history through that lens.

I began cooking at age nine. At that age I could pop popcorn on the stove the old fashioned way unsupervised. I could also make any cookie recipe out of the Joy of Cooking, the main book in our kitchen. I tried making candy, but I think I gave up when I realized I hated divinity. Still don't like it much.

When I was thirteen I got hungry. All those surging hormones I imagine. I quit drinking sweet tea (a blasphemy in many southern circles at the time) and discovered fresh mushrooms and real butter. So much better than oleo and mushrooms from the can.

I became really intrigued by food between then and age fourteen. I joined my church youth group and met my first vegetarians. Some of them smoked cigarettes and I was incensed. If they cared enough not to eat meat what were they doing putting that stuff in their bodies? I started reading and was incensed again, those people who made twinkies, potato chips and ring dings should stop! And to think people spent hard earned money on stuff that wasn't really food. My favorite t-shirt proclaimed "Love Animals, Don't Eat Them" and my mother laughed at me when I told her I was through eating meat. I quoted Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for A Small Planet to her chapter and verse. She didn't mind much when I started cooking. Certainly eating Raw Whole Rye casserole was proof of her love.

That was the year I discovered that the kitchen was not just the heart of the home, but the heart of any gathering. My church youth group had conferences and people had to be fed and while most had no desire to actually work in the kitchen, they sure appreciated those who did and everyone showed up there sooner or later. I went from helping in the kitchen to running it in a matter of months. One New Year's Day, I am pretty sure I was fifteen at the time. I organized and fed 100 people scratch built potato pancakes with homeade apple sauce and sour cream IN BED. Really. I was such a purist and young enough not to grasp the enormity of the task. Fortunately noone one got up very early.

I remained a vegetarian for a long time, until I was twenty something and hungry again. But that's another story.

In spite of all this food foreshadowing in my growing up I thought I would surely be a journalist. I wrote poems in elementary school, short stories in middle school, had pen pals and kept a bulky journal in a three ring binder. Sorry, those little "diaries" with the little brass keys were completely inadequate. I kept mine in a footlocker with a combination lock. I took creative writing in high school, along with honors english and worked on the school paper.

And then I got scared, some might say I had a crisis of faith. At some point it hit me that I would have to write an awful lot of awful stuff before I was ever any good. Back then each and every scrap of paper I scribbled on was precious to me. Whenever I wrote something good I was terrified it was a fluke and would never happen again.

So I quit, and when Mississippi University for Women offered me a full scholarship (included room, board, and books!) I went. When it came time to choose my major I went with my other love. Food.

For me diet has always been the line of recourse for any health and well being issues. Food is the best medicine. Diet effects our health, longevity, mood, productivity. I've known this a very long time.

Eventually I received my Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from the University of Texas.

All of this was a long time ago you might say. What have you done lately? Right after college I accepted the request of the restaurant I worked in to become a manager. Within a year my new husband had bought Knot's Landing Catering, serving general aviation and I shifted over to that. Thereupon followed fourteen years of catering to the rich and the picky.

You should understand that though I had left vegetarianism behind, I did and still do have strong vegetarian preferences. My favorite cookbook is Laurel's Kitchen. Love to me is a good pot of beans, a beautiful salad and a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven. While my cooking skills and knowledge of both nutrition and kitchen chemistry were excellent, Knot's Landing brought all of these things to new heights. All of a sudden I needed to be a "Foodie" Here came plate presentation first and foremost. Followed closely behind by fads and trends. We regularly recreated entire menus from Gourmet magazine and dishes from famous restaurants coast to coast.

Not just in January, but all year long we catered to people riding the crest of the latest thing in diet, low carb, low fat, blood type, vegetarian, vegan, organic, cage free, sushi quality.

And while all this was going on we were making our family. It is never more clear how diet affects mood, learning and health than when you are the first line of care for a new human being. With little or no self control the very young let you know immediately when the equilibrium is off. A well fed child is a happy being. Too much or too little of many things throws the baby and the entire household out of balance.

Somewhere in the last five years I've decided I am perfectly alright with writing all the crap I need to to grow as a writer. I no longer hold every scrap close to me, but rather toss them out into the world and don't worry too much if I lose them or get them wrong. I am stepping out in this blog.

A bit more than a year ago I got a new job working for the worlds foremost natural foods grocer. Some of you know who that is. After nine or ten months of working-for-somebody-else-again shock, I feel I have come home. I hope to spend the rest of my working career here in one capacity or another. All that said as you read this blog, please remember I make no claim to represent that natural foods grocer, but only myself. The opinions contained herein are strictly my own, as are any factual errors or toe-stepping I may inadvertently do at any time.

I've applied for an ambitious leap in position at work. I will be overjoyed if I am even interviewed. And why the overjoy? I think they must be looking for someone who is MORE than me.

My mantra this month is "Who I am is MORE than enough." I'll let you know when it sinks in. I am also busily being who I want to be, the person who :
The person I want to be writes everyday.
The person I want to be walks her dog.
The person I want to be strongly prefers healthy whole foods.
The person I want to be is a teacher.
The person I want to be loves her family through sustenance.
The person I want to be drinks alcohol rarely, but not never.
The person I want to be constantly connects with others in thoughtful, loving, considerate and empowering ways.

Enough! I am posting this, and I'll try not to snatch it right back down.