The Real World

I awoke at 3:51 this morning, earlier than usual, but not by a wide margin. I thought, at that hour, I would have a couple of hours of absolute solitude; not so, in that my wife was up less than nine minutes later. No matter. We secured our individual solitary spaces and dedicated ourselves to our individual routines. She read a book. I read a complimentary email from a friend who had watched/listened to my church insight presentation. His message also included links to a couple of items he thought might be of interest to me; they were. I spent a tad more than one hour and eleven minutes watching and listening to a recommended conversation, a video podcast on, between Glenn Loury and John McWhorter, two Black academics, on matters relating to race. Their discussion was both enlightening and thought-provoking. I realized, while listening to them, that I might be more willing to listen to them because they are extremely articulate and African-American than I might have been had they been less articulate and/or white. Therein, I think, resides vestiges of racism and convoluted bias that I would have hoped was long gone. Their conversation led me to assess the degree to which my views on all manner of issues might be colored by my own default liberal biases or, in some cases, conservative biases I did not realize hid inside my brain.

Sometimes, I realize I have to “open the hood” and look inside my brain to get a clear image of what’s there. It’s not always pretty. As much as I want to think my intellect and an innate compassion controls my beliefs and behaviors, evidence to the contrary suggests prejudice and animus take charge more often than I would like. But those are issues for another day. This morning, I’m more inclined to explore food interests and the extent to which my likes and dislikes might be informed by fernweh.

Quite some time ago, I stumbled upon a blog entitled Afroculinaria, which as one might guess, is based on an interest in African food. The blogger, Michael W. Twitty, has written extensively about African-inspired food, especially the food of Southern African-Americans that grew out of African roots. He describes his blog as “exploring culinary traditions of Africa, African America, and the African Diaspora.” That encompasses a lot of food. And, of course, he intersperses shards of writing on politics, slavery, bigotry, recipes, and plenty more. My primary interest has been on his recipes. I remember one, in particular, that intrigued me because it was for a dish I had eaten many times, but with a different “main” meat ingredient. Instead of beef, his dish called for bison. Not a huge difference, but big enough. I had never used bison (nor have I, yet). But the dish was a favorite I had eaten only in Ethiopian restaurants, zilzil tibs. Zilzil tibs, as I had known it, was a very rare beef awash in an incredibly flavorful spice mixture. When I have eaten zilzil tibs, it has been served alongside one or more Ethiopian vegetable stews, called wot, and eaten with injera bread. At any rate, I was fascinated with Twitty’s recipe, so much so that I vowed to prepare it (but using beef, not bison). I have yet to fulfill that vow. The reason? I have not yet had, at the same time, the discipline and the ingredients to make injera bread. I know I can gather all the appropriate spices (in fact, I have a source for berbere, so I would not have to create my own as Twitty’s recipe calls for). And though his recipe does not call for it, I would want to use a more traditional recipe that includes niter kibbeh, or spiced butter. As I considered the recipe I wanted to make, I realized I like the idea of Twitty’s recipe, but I preferred the ingredients with which I was familiar. Ach! I talk a good game about making Ethiopian food, but I rarely perform. It’s time I make a commitment; either put up or shut up. So, I shall make an Ethiopian meal, complete with injera, before the heat of summer gives way to the chill of fall. Whether I make zilzil tibs or gored-gored or some other meaty concoction, I shall make a full Ethiopian meal! If I do not follow through, I will limit my food intake to 200 calories a day for a month. That should serve as a sufficiently frightening cudgel. Oh, as to fernweh. I long to have experienced Ethiopia and its foods; I’m not sure whether I really want to spend a lot of time there, though.

But I do long to return to Chile, though I have never been there. I imagine wandering to a quiet Lo Barnechea neighborhood, where I would find Hosteria Doña Tinta. I might order lomo vetado a lo pobre, but I would feel guilty for doing so, simply because of the English translation of the dish: loin forbidden to the poor. But I have been assured, though not without some degree of suspicion, that the name does not have any negative connotations for poor people. Still… But Chile. Frankly, much of what I have read about Chilean food leaves me less than overwhelmed, but I cannot divorce my insatiable desire to experience the Chilean Pacific coast from my inexplicable appetite for Chilean cuisine.  My taste for Chile, I think, can be traced in part to a house on a mountain ridge, right on the Pacific coast. I found the house on a Chilean real estate website and fell in love with the place. The design was modern and minimalist, a style I have loved from the moment I saw such architecture. The home was poised high on on a rocky crag overlooking the Pacific. A huge terrace, facing the Pacific, and a pool suggested to me the place was designed for outdoor living. The kitchen was enormous and well-appointed. Its very large island had plenty of room for workspace and for eating. I recall the kitchen was equipped with two refrigerators; at least I think so. And the price! If I remember correctly, it was priced at the equivalent of less than $200,000 U.S. I wanted to buy the place, immediately, upon finding the listing. My wife, though, being the practical sort, suggested it might be best to visit first. But before that, she suggested, we might want to retire with a considerably larger nest egg than we had at the time. Crash! There went my Chilean retirement. I still long to visit. I missed my opportunity, twice, to live in a country with a female socialist president. Michelle Bachelet served as president of the country for eight years, in two separate terms; during both terms, I remember being slightly miffed that I was not living in my dream house in Pacific coastal Chile, regularly eating fresh-caught Chilean seafood.  My fantasy life takes me to some interesting places; unfortunately, my real life rarely tags along. At least, I say to myself, I can eat Chilean dishes and daydream about engaging in philosophical conversations with Michelle Bachelet.

I really should write more about the real world. But, then, I know so much more about fantasy than reality; I would feel like a fraud writing about the real world.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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