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Saturday, June 10, 2006

about those leeks, or peter g's ambessa yrg

dinner tonite, courtesy of the csa:

and then, there were fireworks over the east river! pix tomorrow, along with the podcast.

as i sat in the sky watching the fireworks from my apartment, i realized how much i love cloud-dwelling. i work on a very high floor downtown, so high i can watch the weather come over the harbor and up the hudson.

few things are as fantastic as to sit up among the lightning bolts during a storm. really here in new york i spend most of my time either up in the sky or down underground.

street-level is but a brief perspective. sometimes it's both -- as when you zoom across the brooklyn bridge in a crazy hack -- that's street level in the sky.

there was a time when i lived at street level, like most people on the mainland. but here on my beautiful island off the coast of the united states, i play all above with a view of land, sky, sea.

i'm not sure i could live low again. . .let me assure you that it's awesome to sit and watch the blazing, brilliant fireworks, sipping peter g's new yrg.

i'll discuss that tomorrow, as well. it's waaay winey. all good!

and it was a fantastic contrast to the somewhat bright feeling of andrew b's ecco espresso, which danced in my morning cappuccino. (but not my husband's: for him it's the batdorf dancing goat or nothing!)

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posted by fortune | 7:55 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Friday, June 09, 2006

padmasana abuse & thanks to peter g

hello flickr yoga peeps! how nice of you to stop by to visit my aging sun salutations rant.

in just a minute, i'll have another yoga rant to amuse you -- 3 shocking things i've seen in classes this week concerning padmasana, lotus pose. but before i go off on how i see teachers attempt to destroy otherwise innocent knees or let students' desire for attainment detonate them themselves, let's talk about about coffee.

lemme first thank peter g. of counterculture with all the enthusiasm i can muster for sending me his new ethiopian yrg, the ambessa. this certified organic, fair-trade coffee is roast dated the 6th.

this will be hitting the chemex first thing tomorrow. long-time readers know yrg is one of my most favorite origins.

but today i enjoyed andrew's ecco coffee from yesterday, his c.o.e. winner, the são benedito in said chemex.

it's just the same beautiful floral cup with caramel and dutch cocoa i recall. i had 2 for breakfast. . .yummy, and highly recommended.

it's an excellent answer to those who still think all brazils are only cheap coffees that deserve to be buried in a blend. double thanks to you, andrew!

now for that padmasana rant. first let me note that it's difficult to even find a picture of a correct "safe" lotus pose: here's a nice one of bks iyengar in a proper lotus.

(tho' truth be told, it looks to me as if one knee is slightly off the floor. someone get a blanket for guruji, there, ok? that knee needs support, in my book.)

i'm not one who runs around saying that there is a perfect alignment or form for every pose. but some pose forms are better, are safer, than others.

it's all too common to see people -- even yoga teachers who should know better -- do lotus in an often unsafe manner. instead of keep the legs in a right angle as they move into the pose to protect the knees, the try to slip in by flexing the knees.

you will also see people who keep their knees too wide apart, or who let their knees float above the floor! ouch!

once there you will often see that they have to twist their ankles in a hundred painful ways -- this is called "sickling" your ankles and will over time pose the threat of injury to the ankle.

as you can see from the nice pic of bks above, a better lotus has the knees relatively close together, on the floor, with the feet square, nicely flexed and resting high up in the crease of the hip.

it's just amazing how many people try to put themselves into a dangerous form of this pose, where they don't belong. and this week i did sadly witness an otherwise good teacher near-bully another teacher into a bound lotus, when the second teacher knew she didn't belong there.

later she even confessed to me her anxiety in allowing herself to be put there. "why did you do it, then?" i asked her.

"everyone was looking at me, and the way [the class teacher] kept telling me i could do it. . ." she said. dear readers, don't let peer or teacher pressure happen to you.

not everyone belongs in lotus. it's not safe for people with knee or hip problems.

not everyone is going to get to lotus in this lifetime, if ever. but that aside, if lotus is ok for you, there's no need to rush.

you have years and years to get there, and even more years afterward to enjoy it. so please, i beg you all, if you are interested in lotus, please practice a safe prep series diligently and with extra patience.

always move slowly, mindfully, and breathe. if you can't move mindfully in and out of lotus, you don't belong there.


on two other occasions this week i saw teachers sit idly by while students rushed into lotus in a dangerous way. one woman actually leaned backwards into a sort-of navasana and grabbed her feet.

then, coming forward, using momentum, she shoved one set of toes into her opposite hip crease, and then repeated the process on the other side.

finally she let herself fall (bang!) so her knees hit the floor and she sat up in a bizarre twisted "lotus," her knees very wide, her ankles twisted 90 degrees, only her toe-tips touching the edges of her thighs. the soles of her feet were nearly flat open to the ceiling.

i actually gasped with fear for her as i watched her do this to herself. the teacher sat idly on and gave no instruction on safety or proper movement into the pose.

the third piece of padmasana abuse i saw was a teacher adjust a student into lotus and walk away. how was this person, who couldn't get into lotus by themselves, then supposed to get out safely, with no aid or supervision?

because i have knee issues, lotus isn't on my list right now. if and when my knees get better, then i might think about whether lotus could be useful for me.

and i would expect to spend erich schiffmann's recommended year or two to get there. hey: i didn't learn to stand on my head until i was 38.

i can check out lotus when i'm 45 or something. since i plan to still be doing yoga when i'm oh, 70, i could start prepping at age 50. that would give me plenty of time to learn lotus and enjoy it, literally decades.

there's no rush to get this pose, which has to be one of the most injurious to new yoga students. almost every serious yoga practitioner knows someone who has injured themselves playing with lotus.

don't let it be you!

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posted by fortune | 8:34 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 3 comments | leave a voicemail

Thursday, June 08, 2006

surprise from andrew b & the csa rhubarb

the last few days have been quite seattle -- chill, rainy, unseasonable. thus i had to switch from yesterday's planned cold ginger-rhubarb compote to a hot dessert.

i don't usually take cooking advice from wikipedia, but i must say that i gambled on its rhubarb crumble. and won!

the csa rhubarb bunch was only 3 cups chopped, so i added in an organic bosc pear i had around to fill out the recipe. but i imagine almost any nice fruit would do.

at first the pan seems much too large for the amount of crumble topping and fruit, but trust me, it works out. mine was ready in 40 mins., and not the full 45, so check a tad early.

definitely serve with the best vanilla ice cream you can get your mitts on. delicious; highly recommended.

at first my husband was appalled when he saw the csa had given us rhubarb. he had no idea what i would do with it.

the strawberries were too precious to waste on a pie with rhubarb, and besides, they were so good they didn't last 24 hours, i must confess. but the crumble worked out great.

in coffee news, that sweetie andrew barnett of ecco sent his northern-italian style espresso and another bag of the wonderful 2005 brazil c.o.e., the são benedito. devoted readers recall that i've written about this fine coffee before.

both coffees are roast dated the 5th. many thanks, andrew! you're the best!

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posted by fortune | 7:13 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 1 comments | leave a voicemail

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

leeks and more leeks

dedicated readers may recall that this spring i bit the bullet and joined my local csa. the first delivery arrived yesterday.

so i ran out after 5pm and hopped the lex to borough hall, then flew down court st. to the church where the csa pick up happens. i arrived at 5:25pm, all good.

being myself, i've been following m. pollan's little food pieces in the ny times, which are locked away behind the times select barrier, so i can't even link to them thru rss for you, alas. what annoys me about these is that they don't the least challenge the idea that eating local and organic has to be incredibly expensive.

what did i get this first week for my US$14? 3 bags of veggies, and 1 quart of beautiful ruby-red tiny strawberries.

that's right: local, organic strawberries. my husband took a look at them -- he's used to buying those horrible, swollen, pale monsters from california that mold overnight -- and said "what's that stuff on them?"

"dust," i replied. "these are actually grown in real soil, not hydroponically or whatever, and you have to wash the dust off them."

while it's early in the season, after he had a couple he allowed that they were pretty good. this quart of berries alone was probably worth US$6 this time of year (welcome to new york!).

i also received: 1 bunch curly or pepper cress; 1 huge bunch giant flowering chives (i mean, these had to be 10-inches high, complete with the purple ball of blossoms on top); 1 bunch leeks (3 gigantic leeks, probably 2 inches thick and more than 16 inches long); 1 bunch rhubarb; and 1 very large head of oak-leaf lettuce. all this stuff is organic, so in the grocery store you bet i would have paid a lot more than US$8 for the entire lot.

the very large organic lettuce would have been US$2.79 on its own (altho' in truth it's often on sale in my local supermarket). so i felt like i received a fair value, if a somewhat unusual mix of stuff -- tho' actually i don't think i've ever seen pepper cress in any store and only rarely at the greenmarket. . .

i will be making cold vichyoisse with the leeks and probably a ginger-rhubarb compote with fiori di sicilia. . .

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posted by fortune | 7:05 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

probably overstated. . .

"although there is no precise data on the amount of organic coffee produced in [nicaragua], estimates from several industry sources suggest it makes up about 10 percent of the country's annual coffee exports, or about 95,000 60-kg bags.

during the slump in world coffee prices at the start of this decade, growers were paid a premium that was high enough to compensate the reduced output and made it worthwhile to produce organically.

prices for traditional coffee have since recovered to a profitable average of around US$1.00 a pound. meanwhile, increasing quantities of organic beans on the world market have caused prices to stagnate, with some growers saying they receive as little as US$1.05 per pound. they say the 5-cent difference is not worth the effort to grow organic coffee.

during the crisis, farmers in other producing countries, especially in mexico and peru, rushed to the organic market, causing prices to flatten and premiums to drop, {co-op group official martha stella] gutierrez said.

'many people are quitting organic because it is not economically viable,' said frank lanzas, president of the matagalpa coffee grower's association, the largest grouping of farmers in the heart of the country's northern coffee highlands.

even so, organic convert {ventura] rodriguez, heading into his sixth year as an organic producer, is staying the course. he decided to switch to organic production after raw chemicals he sprayed in his field found their way into his food, sending him to the hospital with severe poisoning.

'i am not doing this for economic reasons but because organic methods are good for my health,' he said, adding he sold his 2005/06 crop of coffee at US$1.30 per pound. 'that mountain of poison i used to use i no longer need.'"

i was very skeptical reading this article, because as i think any average coffee lover can tell you, there's more and more organic coffee offered for sale. it's not as if farmers are bagging on organic full tilt.

and long-time pal oren agrees that he as a roaster/retailer sees more organic coffee too. we also have to remember that nicaragua is a relatively high-cost producing country.

with high growing costs, and a lowering price due to increasing supply, it's natural that the organic farmers are going to get squeezed. they should probably consider paying the price and doing the work to add a fair-trade certification to their organic one.

a certified organic fair-trade coffee should be worth a floor price of US$1.41.

of course the farmers themselves don't get that entire US$1.41 -- i'm told the co-ops normally take some percentage for administrative costs, often said to be around 12.5%. unless my calculator fails me, that would still leave the farmers with US$1.28, a significant premium.

but of course i can't say for certain, which brings us back to one of my niggles with fair trade -- lack of transparency. again, oren says that when he went to nicaragua and talked to farmers, he was told they actually saw only about US$0.90 of that supposed US$1.26 by the time the fees were all deducted.

that's less than commodity price! then they probably need to look also at acquiring a bird-friendly certification too.

no matter how we slice it, it's a difficult issue. (and before all you enraged fair trade supporters write in, please remember that i am a fair-trade supporter. but that doesn't mean i don't want fair trade to improve and serve farmers better!)

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posted by fortune | 8:19 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments | leave a voicemail

Monday, June 05, 2006

why coffee is the most social beverage

"australian researchers found that after consuming moderate amounts of caffeine, volunteers were more likely to agree with persuasive arguments. . . .

it was previously believed that caffeine made someone open to persuasion by improving mood.

but the australian research ruled out the emotional theory. caffeine had a pronounced effect only when volunteers were forced to focus on and assimilate the persuasive argument.

the scientists wrote in the european journal of social psychology: 'our results are consistent with the hypothesis that moderate amounts of caffeine increase central route processing.' "

the persuasive argument part is interesting -- this is why coffee stimulates discussion and reflection -- but how it does it seems most interesting to me. coffee just makes your brain process rational information better, it seems.

but i'm sure dear readers that your question is the same as mine: what the heck is central route processing? apparently, this concept comes from certain theories about how the brain handles information:

"the elaboration likelihood model, or elm (petty & cacioppo, 1981; 1986), and the heuristic-systematic model, or hsm (eagly & chaiken, 1993) each posit two routes to persuasion: the central, or systematic, route and the peripheral, or heuristic, route. central route processing involves careful evaluation of a persuasive message and results in relatively stable attitude shifts that are predictive of behavior.

central route processing most closely parallels the conscious thought processes that elster defines as intentional behavior. the second processing route, on the other hand, involves processing that may be conscious but is less deliberate. peripheral route processing does not involve careful evaluation of the message. instead, attitudes are formed based solely on the recognition of positive or negative 'heuristic cues.'"

heavy stuff here. but i think this means that coffee helps you evaluate arguments in a systematic manner, in an intentional way, with a brain method that won't just leave the gossamer wisps of a passing fancy but instead marks lasting pathways to actual deliberate action.

this might explain why historically coffee drinkers, not wine sippers, are the ones who go on to found stock markets, daily newspapers, modern banking, political parties, insurance companies, mercantile networks, and contemporary democracy. these are all definite, intentional social actions.

and it appears that perhaps it is in the nature of coffee itself to effect our brains in this positive way. just when i think coffee can't be even more interesting, that we coffee lovers have an understanding of all its aspects in life -- another completely different and fascinating door opens on our favorite beverage. . .

posted by fortune | 8:23 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments | leave a voicemail

Sunday, June 04, 2006

um, guidelines, sort of

My BCCY Podcast in response to some audience email, i'm outlining my formal non-policy(!) on describing coffees. it's really about consumer education and raising the level of coffee discourse.

once again, let me thank those of you who wrote in with the cheeky suggestion that i begin a coffee description podcast called "the not-ny times coffee column" or some such and just start talking about coffee the way the mainstream food-n-beverage press ought to be!

pretty funny. but stalking the ny times really isn't my main occupation here, altho' i admit it provides a rich vein of comedy on some occasions.

i'll leave that for other bloggers. if the times wants me, trust me, they can find me. . .

but once again, let me thank you all for your support. i'm happy and grateful that so many of you appear to enjoy the podcast.

you can listen to it here, or subscribe and download it from itunes.

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posted by fortune | 9:49 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

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