Hunger is the worst of diseases ~ the Buddha

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bolt Out of The Blue: There's a Cheesecake Crack in Everything

There's a cheesecake crack in everything, no matter how blue the skies, no matter how far above it you think you can get. You can't pan back (pardon the bakeware pun) far enough to remove it from the field of existence...and you don't really want to.

This crack applies to meditation, eggs, skies, and egos.
And of course, the whole wide world.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
                  (Leonard Cohen)

I made this particular cheesecake almost exactly four years ago for an Earth Day craft challenge, and I have never made it again. At that time, I was trying desperately to cook my way out of a kitchen prison I'd made for myself, and a bad marriage. I was also trying to ignore the crack I'd recently found in my own previously perfect armor: the numbing--a white lightning of drinking, controlling and self-deprivation--didn't work anymore.

Look closely at that cheesecake, it's still there. The crack.
What you can also see is that I wanted desperately to climb out of that crack, outside myself, and see things from the sky. 

The cheesecake was easy. No really! I say--affecting a simple-complicated, pin-tucked Martha Stewart humility.  All I did was swirl some gel food colors into the batter (always Cook's Illustrated, dense version, so you know) with a probably, relatively clean paintbrush and stick it in the oven. This was back when I felt that "just a cheesecake" from scratch was not enough, as an offering goes. I needed all food to be more than it was, and the metaphors more than they already were, because I felt I needed to be more, I guess. 
The sense of dizzy doing-ness was at least a physical feeling to replace the gut-gnawing "not enough."
(*evolutionary note: same person who brought you "pear-scrapple pizza with matter of thyme crust" is now bringing you the recipe for "melon water" here on this very blog)

I bring this ghost of cheesecakes past to your attention for several reasons. One, it was a weird, bright beautiful and delicious thing that I made, though it was born out of pretty dark times spent gagging down drams of psychological poison. Two, it turned out better than I could have imagined. Because I was just spitballing it with that color swirl, ladies & gentlemen. I had no earthly idea what would happen.
This cheesecake is a reminder to me that sometimes, even when I overcomplicate things (which is still fairly often), and against all possible reason, it still turns out.

I had no idea what would happen, adding those colors. It was just a flash of inspiration. Would they disappear or fuse into one muddy color? Would it transmute the batter's taste, with its naturally gorgeous tang of lightness, into some horrible, bitter waste of two solid pounds of cream cheese?

Well, what happened is that the colors only deepened and became more beautiful in the baking process.
They did not change the taste of the cheesecake, much to my surprise, or its consistency: tall outside walls with a gossamer dust of cracker crumbs, dense, but so very meltingly soft inside. 
And no, they did not change the existence of the crack.
But they did make it harder to see.

There's a crack in everything. Whether that's an egg or our theories, or our cheesecake selves--and we are always hiding it. Why do we do that?
Why is a crackless cheesecake supposedly perfect? How did we come to believe in that ideal?

"Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the cheesecake forms a crack. Depending on the type of cheesecake, just cover the crack with some sour cream or whipping cream. No one will know the difference, as they won't see the crack!" (What's Cooking America)

I love sour cream and can eat it with a spoon, but dear readers, no amount of creamy topping, or exclamation points, can hide the naked cheesecake reality. 


Don't get me wrong--I have a complicated relationship with that reality. I respect and have always loved the crack--just not in myself. If you handed me a plate and offered me your cracked cheesecake, I would eat it with bliss and gratitude. I would believe in its virtue, it's silkiness, I would see it's humanity, its vulnerable wisp of a crust and its tender offering from your self to my open palate.

Okay, usually the soundtrack goes at the end, but you're going to need it, pretty much right now, because the skies are about to open up on Mettāphor
Electrical Storm is one of the most achingly lovely and underrated U2 songs in the great big canon, its one I love dearly because it disturbs me and moves me--it is a storm rising.  

What I most remember about this cheesecake, aside from general perfectionism and presentation issues, was feeling huge pressure about getting the perfect photograph of it, so I could hurry up and write the copy and get it into the contest in time (no one in the house at that time even ate cheesecake, except me) so I could clean it all up, give the kids a bath, make a "real" meatandpotatoes dinner, and smooth down my emotional apron (probably with a whallop of vodka) before my ex-husband got home and everything ground down for me in every single way. 
5 o'clock was not Happy Hour, it was Fight, Flight or Freeze Hour for me, and I picked frozen and numb, every time, although I was learning to hold out longer each time.

I recall unmolding the springform and marching it outside while my kids hung onto their naps, with the camera strap in my teeth and an excruciating day 4 hangover, scurrying to find someplace in the grass where there wasn't a bald spot or heckling leaves I hadn't raked.

I ended up in the back field, which always felt spacious and good to me. I didn't want to be with me in that tiny kitchen in those days, and the spring and the field gave me enough room to pace (I was always pacing), and breathe
When I went for those days without a drink, I took to pacing. BIG pacing. 3 acre pacing. In deep discomfort and without any real understanding of what I was doing, I looked up. 
I begged the sky to empty some of its vastness on me. Or that I could dive up there and join it. I envied it.
I now see this was training.
"Thus we train in opening the fearful heart to the restlessness of our own energy." ~Pema Chodron
What are addictions and their pacing fallout, but our own fear and restless energy?

These photos don't look restless--they look like blue skies and suburbia, don't they? I have no idea how I caught them, because as soon as I took them, lightning cracked across the sky, which as you can see, was clear and blue only moments before.
A bolt out of the blue.
Probably my top fear, by the way: danger out of the blue, happening.
And I just stood there. With a cheesecake in my hands. 
And when the sky cracked and lit up again, every line on my face and on the cake was...
yes, visible. 

You're in my mind all of the time
I know that's not enough
If the sky can crack, there must be some way back
For love and only love

I was scared, because the summer before I'd hit the well pump with a spade digging a flower bed, and it lit up my whole body.
I was scared, because the stability of the sky seemed to be in question.
I was scared, because I had this idea that I deserved it--and not in a good way. 

People say that their entire lives flash before their eyes, but mine was just a crack.
Open enough to see how ugly unnaturally blue and green foods really are. 

Let's see colors that have never been seen
Let's go to places no one else has been

Open enough to be broken, sad. 
And somehow, very, very light. 
Bodhichitta. The open heart and mind of a buddha. Just a crack in the sky. Just for a few, illuminated seconds. 

Electrical Storm
Electrical Storm
Electrical Storm
Baby don't cry

"With practice we can learn to find this opening. We can learn to seize that vulnerable moment—love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, inadequacy—to awaken bodhichitta." ~Pema Chodron

This was the beginning. 
Nowhere near practicing, or meditation, or really doing anything about the drinking. 
Just big, scary flashes that it was coming, that lit up everything up for miles for a second or two. 
And, as in an old cartoon, seemed to x-ray my soul. 
Just flashes of awareness...sometimes. Lighting the way, for a few seconds at a time, that something else was possible. But unpredictable! And terrifying. Out of the Blue.


Baby don't cry

It's how the light gets in.
We need the light--as much as breath. We cannot actually see, much less breathe, in the dark.
Do you think it's a coincidence that we are all so deficient in Vitamin D? Vitamin D is critical to the absorption of calcium. Bones giving us the strength to hold ourselves up to the light...which gives us this vitamin.
We cannot make it on our own: (the Vitamin D or the light), and we need to take it in directly into ourselves on our skin--no sunscreen.
We screen ourselves so very carefully--in every way. We slather on the obfuscating goo. We suffer not only from various deficiencies, but an opacity toxicity of the soul.

We distract with a whirl of dizzying pretty color, or we frost all the condemning cracks shut, not realizing they are the way.


Well if the sky can crack, there must be some way back
To love and only love

I say this with a light touch and a reverence for the irrevocable acts we may have all performed against ourselves: 
Once you try crack, there's no going back.
Except there is. There's a lot of going back and forth about it. Because it's terrifying. 

As Pema Chodron says of this touching on bodhichitta or mind of enlightenment, "It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference." 
Yes, like the lightning, out of the blue. The crack in the sky that shows us our own light and closes up again suddenly, darkens.

A classic meditation practice is to imagine ourselves and the field of awareness as the sky. 
The clouds come and go, the weather comes and goes, but it doesn't change the sky.
Except, what to do with an electrical storm then? 
Because lightning appears to crack that sky in half. It is terrifying and illuminating. And…where is the light coming from? Is it coming out of the sky, or going in?

We are absolutely taught to fear the fact that we can't really know or prove which it is. 
When I was in high school, a classmate was struck by lightning and killed, right in front of his parents and the kitchen window. 

I spend a lot of time at my kitchen window. It's an altar and a greenhouse. Here are my meditation tools. It's where we start seeds, where I collect and contemplate the things the kids find for me: an abandoned bird's nest, a stray robin's egg, chestnuts, halves of walnut shells that look like pig noses and hearts, old pennies, mussel shells, smoothest, smallest of stones. 
It's where I leave the parts of myself exposed to my husband and my children--to anyone in this kitchen, to you. It's where I offer these parts I am currently tending to the light. 

I just captured this moment at the greenhouse window. 
It's not nearly as pretty as the cheesecake, huh?

This cracked cup is one of my favorite objects--I tuck a small candle in it when I meditate; it's one place for my gaze to go when it wants...out.

Let me tell you about how it came to be cracked and so awkwardly repaired.
I found this for my husband at a swap meet, in the early days of our courtship--if you can call it that, two old souls meeting up again at 40, but I think you have to. 
The first time we looked into each other's eyes, CRACK!  it was positive lightning. 
That sounds like such fairy tale stuff, but it was terrifying. And blinding. 
You see, he got that three-second soul x-ray. 
He saw, I saw.

The cup may have been our first shared object. 
It hung on a little hook next to the kitchen sink. 
I loved using it, loved watching my love use it to ferry ice to our glasses, just cubes of plain water sliding down this long elegant fingers.

The cup spoke to my innate love of vessels and bowls (before I even knew of the begging bowl metaphor). It reflected us, it seemed to be us:
Our origins (it's from the early 70's, surely you remember this stuff). 
Our household aesthetics (farmhouse bohemian hodgepodge--and this was before pottery Barn decided this was the direction the nation should go in, Spring 2010).
Our reconciliations (with things that have been found and rescued and even previously loved).

It spoke in every way to where we'd surprise-landed, on this Path together, you see: chopping ice and carrying water.

It was perfect.
And then it cracked. 

First, hairline cracks, spider lightning, which I consoled myself didn't matter because it was just an ice cup:
"It can still be okay. You can hardly tell. It can still be perfect."
Electrical Storm

And then a shard fell out:
"Still okay! I can work with that!"
Electrical Storm

And another:
"Still usable! Still clinging! Still hanging on the hook!"
Electrical Storm

And then it fell into pieces:
"NOT okay! Not okay, not okay!!! 
Baby don't cry

Well, the minute we start thinking things are not okay, that there is something wrong, they become instantly unworkable, like boxed mashed potatoes.

I panicked, What does it mean??? 
Life with a meaning junkie.
Did it mean we weren't supposed to be together? (what was worse, my now-husband refused to react with the same level of terror).

That we were fatally flawed somehow? 
This was all happening while we were trying to buy the farmhouse from my former husband, and meld our families--and all of it felt up in the charged, charged air..

It felt to me that if this cup was cracked, how could we expect anything else to stay together?
Even Us.

Now, you may say, wait a minute, you were going to bow out of your life with this man, which hadn't even happened yet, because…the cup…cracked?

Hmmmm….kind of?

The cup sat on the kitchen ledge, in pieces. 
I thought to secretly replace it on ebay (boolean search "replacement+metaphor?"). Only I would know..even I'd forget it wasn't the same one! 

This was the time I stumbled on Tara Brach's work on Radical Acceptance, began fumbling my way into mindfulness, now having a name for it (I'm not even yet-talking about meditation here! I'm talking about the basic trying to be Here, un-numbing to my own existence in my physical body). 

And one day, as I was making dinner and listening to a podcast, she read a poem of Rumi's:

Trust your wound to a teacher's surgery.
Flies collect on a wound.
They cover it,
those flies of your self-protecting feelings,
your love for what you think is yours.

Let a Teacher wave away the flies
and put a plaster on the wound.
Don't turn your head.
Keep looking
at the bandaged place.
That's where
the Light enters you.

And don't believe for a moment
that you're healing yourself.

And she repeated: 
Keep looking
at the bandaged place.
That's where
the Light enters you.


So now we have a bandaged cup, which I don't believe for a second it was me who fixed.

It used to be fearful all the time. 
Now it is sometimes exceedingly uncomfortable, but rarely as fearful.
Sometimes I think lightning will come right through the window, right over the Buddha's head, right over the plants, and ZAP! Crack me open.
But I am not afraid.
Because I am already open. 

Yesterday, out of the blue, Ava said to me:
"I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for cumulonimbus clouds."

And I winced, until I realized why she's looking. She's looking for the light.

"They look like anvils, Mom!, because they collide with the upper layers of the atmosphere--they're trying to expand up."

Guess what? Eerie down in my chair…um, there actually are anvil clouds, and they produce something rare, which comes from unsuspecting blue skies--called a "bolt from the blue," or….positive lightning, and it is 10 times more powerful than negative lightning. 
I ask you: Is there anything more perfect to embody a mettathud than a cloud shaped like an anvil?


You see, like the little cracked cup, or the anvil cloud, there is just no way to hold back the widening seams opening up on your own awareness. 

So, I try not to hold back the sky, and I love and count on the crack in the cheesecake…and I am trying to rhapsodized on it in myself, as elsewhere. It's so pretty to me, so jaggedly human.

Still, I could very well say today, putting a cracked cheesecake in front of my beloved, with only partially false bravado, "Sigh, the crack just creates more surface area." 
All the while wondering, in little dark moments, if just this naked offering, the unadorned, cracked cheesecake, was really, really, really all he ever wanted.
and then
It's all light again, just long enough to see the next bite.
Of love.

To love and only love
Electrical Storm
Electrical Storm
Baby don't cry

I owe more to the white lightning than I thought, it showed me all the cracks where the light could pour in, instead. And to my little scientist.

Positive lightening.

PS: I've found it's best not to quibble with Leonard Cohen, Rumi, the sky, or Bono.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Taking In the Good: Spinach

The Buddha taught that a grass blade, badly grasped, cuts the arm, and I wonder what he would say about a spinach leaf the size of an elephant's ear.

I don't know if you know anything about people who cut themselves, and I don't happen to do that particular behavior, but I do understand the mechanism. Create a distraction, a neural trapdoor, a more immediate pain to bring relief from the bigger pain.

And sometimes, I am beginning to see, a relief from the bigger good.

I always felt something was (even more) wrong with me that glorious spring, my favorite season, actually brings on a mild depression, followed by a prickly bout of anxiety. All the garden beds need to be turned! The mulch needs to be forearm deep! The weeds need to be pulled now so that they won't even try it in July!
Delusional measurements, like corn, are knee-high in July.
But really, it's that something about spring makes my relentless self-improvement ramp up.
I ramp up.
[Sorry, spring food joke--ramps--and this is about spinach anyway!]

Everything happens for me in spring--it's how my particular life is calibrated, always has been.
And it's never a slow little germination on a scratchy brown Kindergarten-classroom paper towel either, or a sweet sod-in-a-Dixie cup kind of happening.
It's sudden spring.
If you are a gardener, you know the split-skin perils of the growth spurt--even in Eden.

Well, this is just that kind of spring.

Last Wednesday was one of the most beautiful days of my whole life, really. So much goodness in my life right now!
A scalp-shushing sunshine by 8 a.m. I'd finished a picture book manuscript. I'd run several miles the day before.
The first Taking in the Good class with Rick Hanson, which I was incredibly excited for, was that night.
I'd woken up feeling peaceful with my post the day before about not feeling peaceful--because, for the first time, I am giving something with my writing, and expecting nothing in return: there's no grade with peacefoodlove.
My beautiful husband had just kissed me goodbye and thanked me again for that very post, which he had said, spilling tears, made him feel seen--the highest compliment there is.

I walked across the grass to the bus stop with my children. Squeals of pure delight and an on-the-fly 6-year-old hip hop ode to chives from Otto. From Ava, my little minutiae seeker, a lovely green leaf she fanned, took a bite of, and then handed to me.
Apparently, the spinach had come up.
From snowflake-numb wasteland to everything pushing it's way up in just a few days' time.
Sudden spring.

I latched the gate on the way back from the bus and discovered, in the unfurling spinach all bogged down in its leaf mulch (because reframing not raking when you have too much land/too little time as "bedding down your plants for the winter" sounds like wisdom, not pure laziness), a lone crayon shining amongst the leaves--a little chewed up, a little raggedy, but perfectly good.
Wow, it must have laid there all winter, but the effect was that it, too, had just come up.

I didn't CSI the bite marks to see whether it was child or dog, I just felt grateful because?…
I had my metaphor for the day--and a side dish.
So I thought, so I thought.

What I took from the crayon coming up in the spinach was: it's okay that it takes you so long to write, Stacia. It'll come up, the right thing to write, and when it does it will be right there organically, and it will be good.
"Whatever comes up, whatever arises, it's good" is just a seedling practice for me, by the way.
It takes me lot of effort to notice the good--chiefly, my own--and to reframe my shortcomings.

You'd think it would be very easy to feel good when it's all spinach leaves, crayons and sunshine!
You'd think that, wouldn't you?
But it's not.

Look, I realize there's nothing easier or more vibrant than spinach--less than a minute to steam in a scant tablespoon of water, a pour of silky oil, salt & nutmeg.
(I also realize we're after exploring groundlessness here, but I'm going to stand my ground and say you really have to have the nutmeg.)

Spinach: there's nothing better for us--right? Packed with vitamins, antioxidants--even iron (though not as much as Popeye purported), it's just plain good.
And in this case, it's come up, albeit unexpectedly, right in arm's reach.
So why does a part of me actually resist the good?

It should feel good to be virtuous and healthy, but in a perverse nutritional whammy, it feels much "better" (easier, more comfortable...) to eat the junk food of self-doubt. It's a fix.
In fact, sometimes, when too many good things happen, there is a kind of…badlash for me.
This is how I've come to see it.

Okay, this is hard for people to understand sometimes: how feeling good and safe can actually create aversion. Because if you have a trauma history or are just deeply conditioned (and I definitely consider my years of drinking traumatic), just around the time things get good and you relax...snap! It makes you a paranoid gatekeeper of your experiences.

My husband sees but doesn't truly understand how it could be so hard for me to take in the good--how could he?
I'm a very sunny person--other than a hereditary brow furrow which calls out for watermelon seeds to be planted there, I do not appear to struggle with this overtly.

Well, I just realized the reason I resist the goodness of spring. It's because I'm terrified I won't be able to live up to it.

I've mentioned my deep admiration for Dr. Rick Hanson and his Buddha's Brain work. Essentially, you can sculpt your brain with goodness and actually rewire it, change it. As he has said: change your brain, change your mind, change your whole heart and life.
And I have mentioned that I am on this self-directed neuroplasticity path (which begins, incidentally, with this very thing: taking in the good).

Okay, I haven't exactly mentioned, in a full or complete way, the unbelievable running email thread I have going with Rick Hanson. It's just plain spinach-packed kind of good.

I wrote to thank him, and tell him about the blog--and I kind of flipped out when he emailed me back with such a wave of plain goodness and support for what I'm doing here that frankly, it knocked me out. He was soooo gracious!
This is a famous neuropsychologist and probably the smartest person you could throw (a carrot or) a stick at within 1,000 miles, and a darned fine writer himself, who said, in one of the most meaningful compliments I have ever savored:
"Keep writing and you'll soon have the guts of a book (if you want)."
[editorial note: it's the "if you want" part that's the greatest]
Just about perfect to encourage someone who's exploring the Buddha belly of embodiment, huh?
This was realllllly good, and so it was also reaaalllly scary for me. Having someone I admire see my writing, but more, the path I'm dedicated to, it's just been...absolutely terrifying.
I told him that.

And for sure, the junk-food of self-doubt has been right there since he said those things.
The"Who am I to____?" Twinkie, the "But I'm just a ______" Zagnut.
The "I'm not good enough to_____" Ding-Dong.
And of course, the big huge hole in the heart of the storebought donut that you can't ever fill up.

I told him that I would like to write candidly about this struggle, because I think that this conversation is a realllllly big opportunity for me to practice taking in the good.
And guess what? He was aces with that!

Our first Taking in the Good class was called "The Enchanted Loom," which was a tour through the tofu-esque brain, and the underpinnings of neuroplasticity. But from the first slide, I longed to get to the end: "Getting on our own side. Self-compassion."
Because I know that's my biggest issue.
This was the single biggest thread that ran through our small group discussion after he spoke--the struggle with self-compassion.
And I will tell you that sitting there, in the guided meditation to get on our own sides, and develop compassion for ourselves, one of the suggestions to feel it was to lay our hands over our hearts.
And that really worked for me (and worked for people in my group, too).
I pictured my heart, a lotus opening in a beautiful green light, which is the color associated with this heart energy in the body, chakra-wise.
And I felt good.

Guess what?
Spinach means "green hand." Okay, possibly. The Persian اسپاناخ aspanakh, translates roughly into "green hand" and even if its only wikipidiot luck that I saw this, I'll take it. The good, I mean.

So I am eating my spinach (which I do love) and I am practicing taking in the good, but I often fall on the sidewalk on the way to pick spinach and scrape my knees--which happened this morning.
At these moments, it's so painful, and so hard to get back up, even when I know it will feel better when I do.

What can transform pain into good?…Self-compassion.
Self-compassion, lovingkindness, metta…this spinach, this green hand, is the Mettāphor because it possesses the ultimate antioxidant: Vitamin M, Metta.
The Buddha said, The greatest protection in all the world is lovingkindness.
Self-compassion. Metta, or lovingkindness turned in.

Pretty recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have been found in spinach. These bind to the same places in the brain (and the GI tract) that opiates do--like the alcohol I used to rely on, or heroin. The same natural stickiness that promotes calm (like a runner's high with endorphins), stress release, and feelings of attachment. It strengthens the sense of pain resistance and self-control.

In other words? "The green hand" feels good and it's good for you.

So why not meditation and spinach for breakfast? Well, I never eat breakfast--except when I make it for other people. I have subsisted for years on a diet of black coffee and a handful of almonds and a green apple throughout the day, until the big offering of dinner. You see the rub here, right? I know what's good for me, I do.

Why don't we do what's good for us? (and so, for other people and the world?). Let me give you all the news that sits--meaning, it's not good or bad, it's just whatever comes up:
We are wired that way, and we are conditioned that way. In trying to avoid pain, we take the carrot and we beat ourselves over the head with it, into…unconsciousness, lack of awareness, a feeling of being cut off.
And then we do it again and again because we feel cut off--too cut off to come back. We are angry with ourselves because we think we did that to ourselves, that we are bad and responsible for our own suffering, but really this is it. This is the suffering, and it's the same suffering of the whole wide world; one big bowl.

Our final small group discussion question in the first session of Taking in the Good was: "How was the self-compassion practice for you? Any difficulties with it? What helped you succeed at it?"

The short answer we all gave was: "OOF."
The awesome "answer" we all came up with was having the wisdom and courage to lay the green hand over our own hearts.

Self-compassion. Sometimes it feels so slow-fast.
To incline ourselves increasingly toward wanting to do what is good for us, even when we don't want to, or don't know if we can.
Feeling, being present, taking in the good, investing in my own goodness--all of these were difficult for me alone and I was just starting to do them! These take energy, fortitude, spinach.
So have some patience with me, I say to me, to you, to we.
It's coming up.

COMING UP (McCartney)











This morning I blew it on the self-compassion with my husband.
So this is what I made myself for breakfast:

Later, Ava came right off the bus and slammed the gate to check to see what had come up. She expects it to be there, the new growth, and still, she is delighted.
Again and again, no matter how cold our winter is, whether the dog bats at it, it comes up.
Goodness. All over.
My own wisdom and basic goodness just keep coming up too.

Ava says, "I love you Mom. You know what the best news is about spinach?--It's edible."
Such a green heart.

I lay my hand over my own heart.
What an offering.
She chomps on a leaf, shares one, swings open the gate wide, walks off into the sun.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mantra Morsel: Canteloupe, Can Stay

Slide up a stool, and I'll offer you our first Mantra Morsel: Cantaloupe = Can't Elope, Can Stay.
Just a phrase with transformative intention on my part. A short way to say you can't escape the present, and you don't really want to. It's all there is.
No one's ever said that more succinctly than Ram Dass, with his vast-simple recipe, Be Here Now.

Seems soooo vast-simple, doesn't it?

I stumbled on Cantaloupe, Can Stay while I was working on another (likely, unnecessarily complex) post.
I was stuck on something ever on my plate: staying here, in the present, heck--just staying, period.
Staying in my own skin, staying in feeling without locking down, staying in a marriage and being seen and loved, taking in the goodstaying in the good, and why-oh-why I feel this terrible need to flee it.

I was trying to name the way this swells up, the physical sensations in my body just before I get the urge to leave, emotionally or physically.
The wordsmith in me came up with "canteloupement" for you (really for myself, of course, since I am far more comfortable writing about feelings & trying to describe my way out of them, then letting them be just as they are) to describe this "fleeing the present good" phenomenon--which of course is just a kitchen play on the psychological term, elopement:
When a patient runs away from treatment in a residential setting, runs away from from safety and what is actually good for them, that's called elopement.
I had the great, short, and harrowing honor of teaching in a residential school for emotionally disturbed children.
Yeah, I know that waking up every day inside newly strong, safe walls sometimes equals learn-grow-leave--canteloupement.

Guess what? Every time I typed in "canteloupement," my autocorrect reached in and gave me "can't elopement" (Autocorrect's been pointing me toward a lot of lessons recently--wait until we get to the gap and happiness and Vitamin G in the next post or so!).

Well, I was short on time. I buried can't elope-ment somewhere in the unfinished post and returned to "real life"--my very immediate, non-writing life, which mostly entails feeding those entrusted to my care, washing out cups, plates and bowls with various degrees of things stuck on, side-stepping great tumbleweeds of dog hair on the kitchen floor, just cleaning up from the last thing on the counter before the next one appears, and opening and closing the fridge 200 times a day.
(Only some of this is Mettāphor, by the way).

Now this morning, I got up with every intention of meditating, then finishing the other post, which is tentatively titled "Spinach: Taking in the Good." Sounds sturdy and worth finishing! But as you know...hard for me. I was committed to it, though.
I spend a lot of time off to the next thing, planning and cleaning up after. And here I was doing it again. No one was up, the birds were singing, sun streaming into the kitchen through the greenhouse window I adore, there was a pot of tea…and I was "getting ready" to meditate, which, sigh, always involves the task of...clearing a space at the kitchen table first.

Yet here was this melon on the counter. Just sitting in a piece of light being a melon.

Though I was pulled by the spinach post, here was this undeniable melon on the counter. Beckoning me.

Really, was there anyplace else I needed to be, but there (right here)? Contemplating this lovely, lopsided, slightly dented, rugged little cantaloupe, the fibrous cross-hatching of its skin a thing of true beauty?
It's good to stand here, I thought. To stay and smile at a cantaloupe.

So that's the concept, friends; that's all it is: rather than a superlong, contemplative post for you today, I'm just offering a morsel, and the mantra is:
Cantaloupe, Can Stay.

This Mantra Morsel has a different kind of mouth-feel than a main course post for me, it's right here happening now and it's good:
"Instantly, with this recognition, I felt a new kind of calmness--one of a profundity never experienced before…that point--that essence--that place beyond."(Ram Dass, Be Here Now)

It's all about essence. The morsel and the be-ing.

I don't know if you've ever thought to make your own cantaloupe water, but it's about the most ridiculously easy and delicious thing on the planet--"Cut up melon and put into water; let sit."
(I know, I'm like 0m for 3 on this blog with recipes).
It's so simple, so delicious, so utterly refreshing that it feels almost like a trick it could be that's not.

It's like you're drinking the way the melon smells; it's magic, really--using one sense to absorb another.
That's called essence, I believe.

Now, in terms of methods, if you let the melon water sit too long past an hour or so--it won't taste the same. The freshness of the taste goes someplace I can't explain.
And it gets slippery.
The essence is now is what I'm saying; you can't make it and keep it.
The way past this issue is as simple as the recipe: be with it. Keep drinking it, keep refilling it. Same fruit; new essence.

I just put mine in the fridge before I started writing, in one of the lovely glass apothecary jars from our wedding last summer. The spigot is slow, so that you really have to stand there.

My recommendation is that you keep it in your fridge, too. That way, when you open and close the door 200 times today, it will gently remind you that it's right there in front of you.

That you can't elope but you can stay, and drink it in.

I am always wrestling with the fact that I need reminding about this. Perhaps it really is okay.
After all, reminding you to remember to just drink the cool aid of the present while it's there is part of now too.
The original title of Ram Dass's book is actually: Remember, Be Here Now.

Presently, on my little kitchen dock: Ray LaMontagne singing Be Here Now.
And the swell and the pure soft breath of his voice is right here, filling up the room and everything in it. This is the sound of the melon water that is the smell of the fresh now washing through my soul.

Don't let your soul get lonely child
It's only time, it will go by
Don't look for love in faces, places
It's in you, that's where you'll find kindness

Be here now, here now
Be here now, here now

PS: While I'm standing here at the fridge this last time, something happens.
As I endlessly hold my glass under the spigot for another glass of melon water, my husband sits in the other room, in his easy splayed way, actually reading Be Here Now--a book he just became aware of today. A book I gave him. A book which makes him feel wonderful because it is already just the way he is, with or without the words.
I hold my glass there, uncomfortable it seems to be taking so long to fill up.
Profoundly uncomfortable feelings that I am not good enough or smart enough to "just be" come. Fear that we are not the same, old feelings of separateness surface.
Why is it so hard for me to stay? For me to just be? Why do I need so much reminding to be here now?!
I shift my feet trying keep balanced, really trying keep my cup out and let it fill.
He sees me struggling, he comes in and kisses me: and in loving this juicy essence of the right now of our lives, he reminds me.
This is what love is for. To help us remember now.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stirring the Pot: Open, the GOOD 4-letter Word

I must say that I have not been writing or even thinking about Scrabble Cheez-Its.

Like many mindful English teacher mothers, I have an absolutely tormented relationship with these things,
since they are technically technicolor non-foods, but in this case they've been transformed into letters, and possible tools of communication!

And...of course...a way to get the inside message out: SOS.

For the past week, I've actually been slaving over a hot post about saffron-scented mussels and the open-close nature of the heart, and the way this reactivity is embodied in the very unpleasant physical sensations of my heart clamping shut when I am in lockdown mode.

The recipe's entire premise hinged on a mechanism that seemed clear: Close: safety from perceived threat, Open: Die (and eventually Open: Free, but you'll have to read it).

Well, talk about a state of reflux, I thought I'd steamed open those babies for good last Sunday. Yet for a week that dinner I believed to be long-since digested has been...repeating on me.

For a week this painful open-close sensation has played out in my life and in my body in conflicts within myself, conversations with my husband, seemingly stronger with each painful experience: open-close, open-close, and then finally, an excruciating bout of prolonged contraction the past few days: mostly closed.

We do stir the pot, where we focus our attention.
The heart, like the brain, is a mussel which strengthens.
All this trying to fix ourselves and our mechanisms...just indicates more of the need there is something to be fixed.

You see, I'm onto myself like a barnacle. And the chief discomfort is actually the being onto myself--it's being aware. The awareness actually hurts.

In this case, there has been a dreadful self-consciousness this week, knowing I am closing, seeing what I am doing, and being unable with all the mindful tools in my recipe box, to stop it.

Still, a voice of gentleness, like a saffron butter bath has said, "It's not every time."

I have tried to be present for this this week. In the moments when I have felt the mussel relax and my heart open, I have tried to be there for it, to experience it...yet when I'm afraid and when it's snapped closed, I can't seem to recall how it even was to be open. I can't open and so I can't write about it.
It's not writer's block, it's be-er's block.
And the more I think and try to write through this. The less I truly feel, and the less I create.

So, I ask you…where does creativity happen, in the brain, or the heart?--I know like you know: it's the heart that holds the lotus and the key.

More immobilizing than being unable to open my heart might be being unable to open it again.
Okay, worse than that:
being unable to open it again, reliably.
Being unable to control it.

If you are a future-leaner and a past-propper (which is just the "tense" for an English teacher to write in: "the past-propper tense"), a perfectionist, a striver, a do-be A-student and the dreamer of impossible projects that somehow at this very moment seem to wildly and scarily, positively be taking off without control then...

Screeeech CLOSE!
I forgot about anything else I was going to say there in that paragraph--does it even matter? After the flimsy part where I finesse-bludgeon myself with my own words, I got just plain stuck on the the word control…how 'bout you?

Who resisted even the word, "control?" A tensing in the body maybe, a flinch? A breakneck nod?

Peacefoodlove feels out of control and I have only written one post.
Actually, I have 40 posts going and about 10 solid posts, but nothing "finished."
But what we are experimenting with here is not the solid, or the finished, it's the groundless and the vast.
Getting comfortable with the vast groundlessness of the kitchen floor that gets dirty all the time because someone actually cooks there.

I am always trying to think myself out of the grocery bag. This is just one of the ways I try to control things, I try to butcher-paper my brain around them and make them submit, sift and measure them, weigh them to a thousandth of a gram, make the recipe "turn out."
Control, control. 

Here's the thing with these cooking meditations:
They don't turn out, they turn in.

In my mussels post I've pried open some extremely painful stuff, about my closed heart, chiefly: How to open it? It's soooo unresolved, and it's

Every time I've picked the lock on my shell this past week, it seems to close right back up again. This is maddening! What kind of cooking meditation is this! Why can't I get past this? What kind of endless, remedial cook am I? How can it take me over a week to finish this one post?!
Control, control.

Pema Chodron says we should stick to one boat and let it put us through its changes--changes will feel so much prettier, we think, on a catamaran than a dingy!--and the cooking meditation is no exception.
Jumping posts is a way of avoiding the full feeling of being in the changes.
It's a way of trying to control where and when and how the changes will occur, an emotional ass-saving time-stamp that's broken.
And I did say (I think out loud to you) that like it or lump crab it, I am in for writing about the changes, in real time, as best I can.

So, I guess if that means chewing on the same mussels for a week then that is what it is!
(Bravely, with zest!, but Sorry, Charley, still control, control)

This is what I do--what I have always done and how I have tried to find a sense of safety.
I try to control "it," especially with words (ask my husband).
I am coming to accept this as a false but self-preserving refuge.

Control: It's what's for dinner. It's what I've done and what I still do, but is it who I am?

Tara Brach says to me via podcast as I cook dinner:
"Here's the inquiry: who are you when there's no controlling?"

And I'm a puddle on the just-mopped kitchen floor because...I…do not...know.

Because I am so used to trying to control everything, I find myself flabbergasted by this inquiry. The idea that I could even separate "myself" from the need to control almost feels like what…a trick?

And I realize that I have painfully identified myself with the very mechanisms that I employ to bring relief from the pain.

You know the story: "Oh that's just Stacia, spinning the plates and the words, she's just so controlling."
[I might insert a caret here and say that a very deep clue to this false identification stuff is reckless use of the third person regarding one's self.]

As much as I love writing, I DO try to control my experience with it (and possibly everyone else's). I overthink, over research, and overwrite (nothing like that picture book course to bring this home--ideal publishing count?--700 words).

The problem is…you can't be in the now if you're mercilessly chronicling the now--or even the past or the future. It never gets the chance to just be there in your mouth.

If, let's just say, you are toiling over your closed heart and your mussels analogy, trying to write about the sense of the embodiment you feel about the clutch, at a thunderous standstill-boil, striving to figure out how to open your heart back up on-a-self-imposed-deadline for a blog two people are currently reading (and one of them is actually Buddha's Brain author Rick Hanson because he told you so and then said "Don't obsess about this, please!"), you will be too closed to take in the good of the fact that your six-year-old son slips onto your lap at the computer and tiles out the word "LOVE" in Scrabble Cheezits right under your nose.

Right under your copy of Jack Kornfield's The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace.

Too distracted to feel the pureness of the love and the unsolicited hug.

Too distracted, in favor of chasing the words to describe the feeling,  to feel it.

Too distracted with what you are "supposed to be writing" (and possibly the fraud you might be to your friends or your blog, for actually having those horrid-pasty mindless Cheezits in the house), to see what he's simply spelled out for you.


Right there.

The tiles of which are meant to be treated with curiosity and gentleness and eventual reassembly.
But meant to be eaten, not just written about.


You could also be too distracted to see what he's also pointed up, this Jack Kornfield piece, which you have read ninety times today but just now feel in your body:

"At times we feel we cannot love.
  Because of our confusion and the pain we
  carry, because of the suffering around us, our
  love is buried.
  In spite of this history, we must learn to find love again, in our body and our heart,
  in our community, in all things."

In our body. In our heart.
It is in the body not the head that this must be learned.
This is the message inside to get out--Love through this body--not SOS.
Through the body, the love discovering itself.

We find love again in all things: Scrabble Cheezits and especially not writing and thinking about it so much.
And hugs.
And no deadlines on your cooking meditations.
And just paying attention and coming back to what's actually here. Here in the now to taste.

I was not too distracted to feel the glorious sense of my own heart, opening wide.
I took my hands off the keyboard, and PRESTO CHANGE-O:
Out of control, out of control.

Speaking of good!:
Tomorrow, I will be starting Rick Hanson's 8-week telecourse, Taking in the Good: Weaving Peace, Happiness, and Love into Your Brain and Yourself
And I will send it your way as we go.
(Pretty sure there's room at the table if you want to sign up!)

I will share the mussel post with you soon if you like. You are patient. It will be good.
It already is good.
It will come in time.
I borrow and bend a saying people who have quit drinking will say:
"It took every recipe I cooked."

And a little Shakespeare:
Lord what fools these mussels be.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Yellow Submarine

If you are a runner, and I am, it's absolutely terrifying to wake up on a submarine.

Even a dreamy yellow one, with an inarguably perfect soundtrack and everything a girl could want:
Dreamy new husband: SKM
Dreamy new blended family with a catchy title: sangha of seven
Dreamy old-new kitchen, finally full of possiblity: peacefoodlove.

This blog is about what you do once you wake up.
What to do when you wake up on the sub with no escape from everything you've ever wanted & have to learn to stay.
And what to feed yourself along the way.

In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines

Good news about Moby Dick! Sea tales are just vast because the sea is absolutely everything. 
Food's "just" this way too. It's everything for me. My Mettāphor.
My container for the All.

It's the salty-vast soup of life, and everything we can't control within it. 
It's the clear, sparkling water with the clarifying lemon curl...and the stagnant turkish murk in the cup. 
It's the howling pain of the mako bite...and the compassionate graze of the kelp kiss.
It's the terror of the sudden squall...and the strange light & freshness possible afterwards.
It's the crag of the oyster ripping against your knuckles (you and and your shucking knife)...and the pearl dropped right in your hand.
And above all, it's discovering the endlessly versatile firm white fish of your Self, alongside the terminal flotsam scum you can only tong-tong at in the big canner of your Soul, where you are just trying to make, and preserve, something good. 

In the soup, we know even when we don't want to know that that there is always the potential for the submerged fault line to reveal itself, and the brilliant tsunami of change to break open the safe shore.

So, we resist. Wait a minute, you want me to jump in there?

Resistance is futile, but one way we try is to live on the surface. You "live" there by not thinking about what's happening to you, and not caring. Buffeted & beaten up by every bit of weather and the whimsy of any pecking gull, each day you suffer, treading & bobbing.
You're not drowning Down There in the unknowable murk, so it must be "fine." Sure you're sun-blind, but you're not really looking to see, so you'll take your chances on top with the gulls, thank you very little. 

The other way (ahem, my way) was to drop down to where it's so deep and lunar cold it's like not having to be in the sea at all! You "live" there by numbing out to your fear that it's all just too much. Afraid of being out of control in the sea, you drink the salt water against all folk wisdom & your gut, because you're so, so thirsty to fill up with numbness against these feelings of groundlessness. Or any feelings.
(You can insert "vodka" for "salt water," or "sugar" or "self-flagellation," or whatever your poison is. Any of them work equally unwell.)

Either way, surface- or bottom-dwelling, you're not really being in or with. 
And you're not really living, now are you?
These are both self-protecting mechanisms, by the way. They're survival instincts, if outmoded, designed to reduce perceived threats and bring us a sense of safety (sigh, if only safety were true refuge), of some mooring.
Yet the only thing you can safely say about either place?--is that you'll be alone and struggling for air, always.

So we sailed on to the sun
Till we found a sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine

I found a sea of green--no metaphor here: I only found it when I stopped drinking the salt water and destroying the chemistry of my body. 
Unfortunately, you can stop drinking the poison and still stay separate--in fact, it's much easier and more comfortable to practice this not being numb business alone! I just slid a brick inside my meditation cushion and stayed put on the bottom, calling out metaphors for peacefoodlove, but essentially, spinning empty plates. 

Then I found my Soulmate--and before you go gagging on how sweet and impossible that sounds, let me warn you: everyone wants the Soulmate, but nobody thinks through to how incredibly hard it will actually be once you're on the sub.
And suddenly, I had to be in something. In love. In the sea. No more numbling-bumbling around on the bottom. 

My husband doesn't even like seafood, so who knows what his response will be.

Um, the kitchen on the yellow submarine is pretty small, by the way, for seven people in this new sangha. Nothing like a submarine to encourage closeness and obliterate a feeling of separateness! [Cue up the chorus]:

We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine

You see, I always believed there was a yellow submarine out there, of goodness and contentedness and belonging, even as a child with absolutely no reason to believe that.
Because it's in our nature to have the good and basic hunch that getting on the sub is the way.
The only way.

The getting on is the easy part, by the way. It's the staying on.
I was, and still am, completely unprepared for how messy the whole thing is: how deeply wonderful but also incredibly uncomfortable it is in a galley kitchen on a sub with 6 other people (and a dog).

Yet, here we all are, together. And even though I get that this is the way, I'm still full of minutiae-clinging ego-gusto a whole lot of the time and it will urge me to flee this sometimes-stifling kitchen. I can make the perfect cake if I just do it all by myself. Alone.

And [BUT] our friends are all aboard
Many more of them live next door
And the band begins to play

I know I need to give myself over to it, but I still have frequent moments where I fear the sea's uncontrollable power so completely it makes me sweat--but I fear the close proximity of the sub even more! I can find a thousand fondant-covered, Edison-esque ways to fail to be on board. (As the kids would say, "FAIL.")

So, I have to swim around out there and flail and feel crappy for a while before I come back (maybe we'll make Come Back Cookies next time), a sopping, humbled wreckofthehesperus, and I am taken back on board with no loss of love--but of course it's me who has to clean up the kitchen floor, mopping away at the big self-destructive puddle of my own making.
Defecting from the sub sounds silly out loud, even to an experienced contortionist/runner/dorsal fin-chewer-offer such as myself.

But. It's handing over the pastry bag full of homemade butter-black icing to someone else, and giving away the snitchy white countertop of my ego--the whole length of the way.
I'm trying to let other people help--and use the black frosting. I really am.
I am now learning to be the teaspoon, and to fill up:

But it's the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

Full speed ahead Mr. Boatswain, full speed ahead
Full speed ahead it is, Sgt.
Cut the cable, drop the cable
Aye, aye, Sir, aye, aye
Captain, captain

know that the only way is to cut the cable, drop the cable, to move forward. This is also called letting go, and it continues to be the number one challenge of my entire life. I'm learning to let go and give to other people, even when it's not "perfect." (Julia Child had a rigid no apologies policy, so what's my problem?)
I am learning to make food with other people, and eat it with them, not just photograph it and analyze it to death, and starve on the sidelines and wonder why I'm so hungry and angry (um and yes: lonely and tired, too).

Peacefoodlove is a project about expansion. But first, like any kitchen renovation, it's about taking things out, and about rewiring. You're gonna hear me talk a lot about this as we go and I am pissed off at the electrician that is me.

As we live a life of ease
Every one of us has all we need
(One of us, has all we need)
Sky of blue and sea of green
(Sky of blue, sea of green)
In our yellow submarine
(In our yellow, submarine, aha)

This is a cooking project to uncover and recover my Self. To recover the ease and the peace available to any one of us, at any time, through the abundant vehicles of peace, food, and love.
Today, the Yellow Submarine is the vehicle. Even though I can't "fathom" it (ouch, you see our Mettāphor is handy), what this letting go would actually be like?-- I have to believe I can learn.
Sigh. I want to taste that.

Whenever I find something--whether it's a book, a song, a turn of phrase, or a mantra, I'm going to figure out what that means in the language of food and the body and make it for you, because that's what I have to give.
If you're hungry for that sort of thing.

I know that if I can just resist my urge to defect from the sub, squeezing out of one of the many portholes of fear, I will be okay. If I can stay in this hot little galley kitchen, I will make something good.

We are ALL just naked Twinkie people with basic, cloud-soft sweet centers, wanting desperately to get on that submarine.

Okay! This is my only bit of real cooking advice today, a lesson from the Yellow Submarine Cake:
It is worth the wait to soften up the real butter and grouse through finding the scissors someone has made off with to cut the parchment to grease and flour the pans. When you are working with naturally sticky thoughts, it's worth it to measure carefully and spend the butter in the cracks.

The gratification of something not sticking, not one single bit, just one time, is better than the cake.
And when you see it slide right out of the pan with ease, golden and beautiful, you will know you can do it again--with practice.
Because--and I reaaaally I hope my husband sees me write this: It's worth it.

Not the first post I'd imagined here, but it's the perfect one.
Ditto, the cake.

And in the end, the love you bake, is equal to the love you make.

What is Mettāphor-- and what's it good for, anyway?

A few years ago, I'd say, "It's a metaphor, silly (bat, bat). Everything."
But you're not silly and I've put down the jeweled skewer of the Metaphor Queen for something new.

Food Metaphor is wonderful stuff--I stake my Self on its power to embody All. On the other blog, I spent years honing this very idea, but also...carefully crafting how much I would give of it. 
Paring out the brown spots, cropping out the mess in the sink, tinkering with the sticky bread-dough elasticity of my own metaphors, and concealing the fact that no matter what it looks like, the first one's always a pancake.
Till I found myself, hands in the air with meat loaf hands, with no one to turn on the spigot for me. But me.
Pema Chodron: "That's not the sort of news we really like to hear."
Talk about a mess to clean up. 

Meta means beyond, and in Pali, Mettā means a basic lovingkindness (or the Sanskrit, Maitri). And I am now wondering, with a substantial Mettāthud, how I thought that other blogging would "go" somewhere, when I wasn't willing to go beyond myself and really give anything. My recipes and posts were intended to please but not really give myself. They were more like a public butchery--and that is not free, that's a straight-up paid service.
All we really have to give is our true Selves and what we can make.
A blog can be a convenient place to practice not doing that. 

Though I had set myself on The Path and had put down one terrifying addiction, I wasnt "improving"---I was so stuck. 
I think because my writing wasn't really for some greater purpose. What I was creating and endlessly describing was like some bread wreath ourobouros of...stuckness.
That's an addiction, too.
I did not bake more love, to myself or anyone else. I could intellectualize and describe, step-by-step, how to bake such love, but I didn't really follow the recipe, and then I couldn't understand why it didn't turn out.

The thing with baking is, it's pretty precise--and I'm a kitchen rebel (no measuring for ME!!!) 
I have learned that baking embodies chemistry and art--and so do we.

The spirit of Mettā  is to offer a lovingkindness toward one's self, too. Frankly, it's kind to me to bake love (or forgiveness or peace) to you, no matter what you do, or whether or not you push the plate away.

It's kind of simple, as my theories go: 
Mettā (love for self and others) + phor (given for something greater) = Feeling FULL.

So that's Mettāphor, and that's the blog. Let us eat and practice.

I know, it seems radical--indulgent even!--to practice lovingkindness toward your self...but that is what I'm after here.  I really missed this part, for the longest time.
As my grandmother Viola used to say, "Try it, you might like it."
Who can argue with that?

I'm trying Mettā. And I like it.

If you want to know how it functions for me personally (right this second) it's a reset button a relief valve...a feeling of true refuge.
Its a balm for my own heart to say to it: you are basic goodness, you are trying, its enough, its okay, you get a fresh start.

I'm not an expert on this, but like an infant, something inside me knows enough to root for the milk of lovingkindness. 
I know that the ultimate Mettāphor can be found in me inviting you in to my kitchen of this time. It's central and clean and well lit now--and it's open.

Here [breaks off a hunk of the The Good Bread]. I made this. It's by no means perfect, but it's still warm and it's good. Would you like to share?

I promise there'll be "enough": food, recipes, pictures, music and good heavens there will be Mettāphor, because that's just what I do, and that is what I have to give.

And in the end, the love you bake, is equal to the love you make.
Somehow, I think Mr. McCartney's okay with this recipe revision.