Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Christmas Eve 2014: No Pictures, Please

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Fez, Morocco…Christmas Eve. I couldn’t, didn’t take a picture, though my hand itched for the camera. All I have is mental images, translated here:

“And, this,” says Ali, the city guide, “is the caravanserai (CAR-uh-van-sir-I).” He continues, “The farmers stay here when they come to sell in the Medina.” A donkey wreathed in a rope harness stands in one corner. Two women pull veils closer around their faces and watch us warily, four American women, decidedly unveiled. The men stare at our way, expressionless. I look away to the baskets, woven from palm fronds holding onions, garlic bulbs, potatoes and carrots. Nearby, a cluster of chickens tied together at the feet, cluck and mutter, in a feathered pile on blue plastic mesh.

Ali points to a row of blue battered doors on the second floor. “That’s where the farmers sleep.”

Standing here is almost unbearably intimate. We. are. not. welcome. I smell the straw, the donkey dung, and the dust and try to nod or acknowledge a greeting? That we’ve intruded?  Ali led us here, but I can’t look away.

Each cobblestone lane in Fez’s Medina, seems more Canterbury Tales than 2015 Christmas Eve.  I’m jolted to remember the celebration of Jesus’ birth in an obscure stable in Bethlehem, another Mediterranean city 2000 years ago. This courtyard, this caravanserai, could be that barnyard. Tonight on a farm in South Dakota after Christmas Eve supper, my brother will read aloud the passage from Luke 2:7 in the New Testament:  “… and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Holy Bible, NIV). This real life moment in Fez feels like a very, very old story. Time travelers? Them? Us?









Rhubarb. Spring. Baking.

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

On Sunday, I enjoyed the pleasures available only on a late May morning in a friend’s kitchen, a friend with a huge rhubarb patch and a baker’s white (flour) thumb. Christine and her husband, Scott welcomed me overnight at their home on a cattle ranch in northeastern Nebraska. For supper Scott grilled pork chops from animals raised nearby and asparagus Christine had harvested that morning from their garden. (They would have served their own beef, but their guest, sadly, is allergic.) All delicious, served with generous helpings of warm conversation.

In the morning, I said, “Something smells wonderful!”

“Rhubarb muffins,” Christine told me. She bakes often and does it without fuss. Another pile of slim stalks lay in the kitchen sink. Later in the day, after I left, she’d make and serve a rhubarb dessert to friends. Her main focus, though, these days is completing her PhD thesis in nursing with an emphasis on qualitative care for elders.

We sat down to  warm muffins, hot tea, and cold orange juice. I ate two muffins.  Well, ok, two-and-a-half. Christine had stirred black walnut extract into the batter, adding another layer of flavor.

Prairie breakfast. Prairie air. Plenty fun!

Christine-style Rhubarb Muffins

Christine: friend, baker, experimental cook, gardener, PhD candidate









1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk, fresh or dried  equivalent

1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 tsp black walnut flavoring

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt


2 tsp melted butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

In medium bowl, combine brown sugar, oil, egg, milk and vanilla. Add rhubarb, nuts, and flavoring. Stir in dry ingredients, just until mixed. Spoon into prepared muffin tins, either greased or with paper liners. Combine topping and press gently onto muffin batter. Bake in 350° F for 20 to 25 minutes until wooden pick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Makes 18 muffins.