Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Medicine Trail

I never used to be a runner.  In fact, when I first began running, I couldn't make one lap around a quarter-mile track without stopping to wheeze and catch my breath.  But as time went by, I kept trying.  I felt a lot of frustration with my life back in those days, and running was a way that I sought to improve myself.

My first race - the L.A. Chinatown Firecracker Run
While living in Old Pasadena back in 2007, I would drive out to the Rose Bowl and run around the 3.3 mile loop.  I remember saying to myself the first time I ran around it non-stop, "You know what that means, right?  You have to do this every time now!"  Once I moved back into my house on the Arroyo's edge, I almost always began my runs into the Arroyo from the John Crowley trail descending Salvia Cañon.  This became my medicine trail, the place where I came to work on my mind, body and spirit.

The Salvia Cañon trail, as I call it, was not always there.  Salvia Cañon was once just a steep road without a sidewalk or trail alongside it.  I remember walking that road as a child on my way to UCLA football games.  I remember my dad’s reaction as he noticed prickly pear cactus growing on it’s slope.  “Ah, nopales!” he exclaimed as he gathered the spiky pads.  My babysitter, Rosa, sauteed them for me with vegetables.  Now the canyon has a lovely trail which winds through beautiful native plantings.

Once I reach the trail, I begin to run.  I let myself go as I weave between the trees.  I loosen my body and focus on using only the muscles necessary to glide forward as my feet rotate below me.  Like water, I adjust to the trail, and take the path of least resistance.

Sometimes I run for pure joy.  Other times, though, I run because I don’t like some aspect of myself spiritually or physically.  Sometimes the problems of the world just seem insurmountable.  Whatever it is that’s bothering me, the pounding of my feet seems to beat it out of me.  The sweat from my efforts purifies both body and mind.

I run as a form of prayer.  This land is my home, and I wish to be a part of it - to become one with the landscape.  I mimic the deer as I skip down the steep, rocky slope.  I leap like the birds that dart through the air.  I feel a renewed sense of purpose and I am energized by the land.  I know that when I return home, tired and sweaty, I will feel better, and that things will be clearer.  Perhaps, in a small way, I am  reborn each time.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Preserving Our Heritage with Blue Corn Cornbread

I’ve been on a corn kick lately with my cooking, and have enjoyed creating my own versions of several traditional dishes.  I’ve made tacos, tamales for Christmas Eve, and even tried my hand at making pupusas for the first time.

The staple grain of the Americas, corn has sustained life on this continent for thousands of years.  Invented by my Mexican ancestors, cooking with corn reaffirms my ties to this continent, and makes me feel truly American.

While the genetic diversity of this sacred grain is threatened, I feel the best way to protect our heritage is to continue practicing it.   It was with this in mind that I’m publishing this blog's first recipe - for my famous Blue Corn Cornbread!

Blue Corn Cornbread

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup blue cornmeal
1 heaping tablespoon baking powder
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 egg or 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1-2 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
1-2 cups water, milk, or milk substitute


1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl and mix them together.  Feel free to add a dash of cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, or other ingredients as desired.  If substituting arrowroot powder for egg, combine it now with other dry ingredients.

2.  Add egg (if not using arrowroot or egg substitute), maple syrup and a generous cup of water, milk or milk substitute.  Mix well.  Add more liquid for fluffier cornbread, or less for denser consistency.

3.  Pour mixture into oiled baking tray and bake at 400 for 20 mins.  Remove, let cool, and enjoy!

This cornbread was the center of my family’s meal tonight, accompanied by a black bean dish and tomato and pepper soup.  I hope that you enjoy this recipe, and that it nourishes you for years to come.