food

The Zen of Cooking

I love cooking. I love baking. I love finding recipes and making food that people enjoy. And yeah, I really love eating it too!

But certain things I hate doing. Like chopping potatoes. It seems to take FOREVER! Especially if I’m chopping it into little pieces to make fried country potatoes or hash. Normally I try to rush through it as fast as I can, usually managing to cut myself in the process.

But today…something was different today.

I stopped. I slowed down. I took each slice of potato separately (instead of trying to stack three or four slices together that all slide apart every which way). I made slow, deliberate cuts in each piece. Chopping them slowly and carefully.

Instead of being frustrated that it was taking so long, I found I was enjoying the process!

It became a sort of meditation. Making myself slow down. The sound of the knife as it chopped through the white flesh of the potato. The feel of it scraping across the cutting board. The sight of the bowl of cut potato slowly rising until it made a little mountain with ‘boulders’ that kept rolling off the side.

Breathe In. Slice. Breathe out. Slice.

How many of us can say we take the time to enjoy what we are cooking? Not just the things we make after, how they smell or taste. But the act of cooking itself.

The smell of the herbs as they heat up in the pan. The smoothness of the garlic as I chop and press it. The spice of the habanero and jalapeno peppers as I toss them in. The sound of the food sizzling in the pan. The feel of the wooden spoon in my hand.

So many times I’m rushing my cooking, my mind on so many other things. Trying to get it done so we can do other things on our busy schedule. Or just cooking to get it done so I can get to the funner aspect of eating.

Yet maybe I’ve found a new way to enjoy cooking. Letting it slow me down.

Today made me ask why I don’t slow down more. What gets in my way that I can’t enjoy the act of cooking? Of life? Because let’s face it. Very rarely do I (or a lot of other people) really let ourselves experience the world around us. When was the last time you just sat and watched a flower? Or a river as it rushed by? A bird in your backyard? Or just sat in meditation for more than a minute, letting your thoughts drift and balancing yourself with the world around you?

The answer? It’s been a while. But I want to change that.

I need meditation. I need balance. The more I seek it, the more energy and happiness I feel in my life. I know, people make it seem all mystical and something hard to achieve. All the mantras and poses and whatever else that they try to sell you online.

But really meditation is just slowing down. Focusing on a task to the exclusion of all other thoughts in your mind. Engaging your senses and allowing yourself to feel, see, touch, taste, smell. To forget about this practice and that test and that bill that’s due next week or an appointment you promised to make. To let your mind drift, slow down.

I always try to make meditation so hard. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be something as simple as slowing down.

It may seem odd to find your zen cutting potatoes. But that’s exactly what I did.

What’s your Zen?

Fun and Friends at the Gallup Trials

Wow, what a weekend!

We just got back from the Gallup trials down in New Mexico, and it was amazing. First off, I’ve never been to Gallup period, let alone to ride. But I love anything down in New Mexico. I love my trials family down there. And I grew up falling in love with the Tony Hillerman books, and everything here was like stepping right into one of those novels. The desert landscape, the mesas and mountains rising up into the distance, places like Gallup and Shiprock.

So first impressions…

I love the town of Gallup. It’s very quaint and full of touristy stuff, but also full of a lot of history. The whole town just gives you this quiet, slow-paced sort of vibe. Everywhere you look is color, and a lot of the stores have gorgeous old original signs that are just really cool. There’s a lot of open, free parking and parks and stuff to do. And the food! The food is outstanding. We ate at four different places while we were there (Sandra’s Cafe, Jerry’s Cafe, Gerrano’s and El Rancho) and each one was better than the last.

Going into El Rancho was fun. There’s so much history there. Wandering down the red carpet halls, looking on the name tags to see who had stayed there. Hearing the story of how John Wayne rode a horse all through the hotel and into the bar. Seeing all the old photos. The giant amethyst geode. The furniture made up out of cow horns and wagon wheel motiffs.

But now to the main event. Trials!!!!

We got there on Friday and just spent some time playing around. It’s an amazing motorsports park owned by the city! It’s huge, and what’s more, people want us there. It’s really sad how many times motorcyclists get kicked out of places, so having an entire city welcome us with open arms is absolutely awesome.

It was actually kind of scary pulling into the pit because instead of the field of trailers we were used to, we actually stumbled into some kind of National Guard war games. Oops!!!

Friday night was when we visited Jerry’s Cafe. It’s small, and there’s not a lot of seating, but the food was so good! I don’t really handle spice well, but since I’ve been dating Dave I’ve been getting a crash course and getting accustomed to it. The green chili was so good, and the rellenos were to die for!

Saturday dawned sunny and warm, and it was FUN TRIAL day! Of course, Dave and I went out scoping the numerous trails in the area first. It had been three weeks since we had last rode and it wasn’t long before my legs were crying. But the views! Riding along ridges, high above the desert and the city, nothing to obstruct your view.

So what is a fun trial you ask? Basically we all spent some time setting up five sections, and ran a ‘gate’ trial. By gates, meaning that we put gates in the section on obstacles, and each gate was worth a certain number of points. To get your points, you had to ride through the gate and ride the section clean (meaning no putting a foot down). Put a foot down…no points. So even though you might have been completely awesome and gotten every gate (including not crossing your tracks or backing up), put one foot down and all your hard work and eleven points goes down the drain. The New Mexico group did something really cool too, where they gave a points bonus to the lower level riders who maybe didn’t have the skills or confidence to rack up a ton of points. Meaning that novice riders got 9 points, amateurs got 8, etc etc down to champs.

We got in groups of five or six and headed out. It was so much fun just competing to compete. No medals. No year end trophy. Just pushing yourself to see how many points you could get, balancing that against having to ride clean. There was even an ‘endurocross’ section, with hills and tires and a twisting track that we raced on. Best time would get points. I knew I wasn’t going to challenge anybody for time, but it was fun racing! Especially because I could have taken the lower level route, but I chose to take the harder route over the hills and big tractor tires and actually managed to make it around without crashing. The guys in our group were having a blast trying to go faster than each other.

The end of the day came, and I didn’t win anything (the winner got a brick with Gallup scratched into it), but I ended up 18 out of about 33, which was pretty cool. But I couldn’t stop smiling. This is what life is for me. Good friends, good fun, and spending the day with people that make you smile and laugh. Not to mention I put in some kickass riding.

Supper that night was Gennovo’s. If you ever go, get the chile rellenos. You will not be disappointed!!!

So Sunday came, and it was another amazingly gorgeous day. And it was time for the regular trial. Lower classes were up first, and I wasn’t really sure what the day was going to hold. Gallup is dirt and rocks, but the dirt crumbles, so the possibility of not having traction in certain places was a major possibility.

The sections were everything I could have hoped for. Tight, twisty technical. Unfortunately, my score didn’t really reflect my riding. I ended the day with four fives. Once because I slipped off a slanted rock. Once because I popped over a rock and Spitfire (my Beta bike) decided to pop herself into neutral and dump me on the other side. Once when I missed a gate (all the rocks look the same on the hillside!) and once more just because at the end of the trial when apparently my bike was tired in a turn and decided that she needed to lay down. Unfortunately that meant I ended up in a thorn bush with a bent clutch lever. Bad bike!

But I also had some really awesome saves. I’m getting better at riding things in second gear. I hope to actually get some video of me soon, but of course I always think of video AFTER the event. Which is so helpful.

I fought for a lot of things Sunday. To save points and get myself in better position to ride well. And that’s what I love about trials. It’s not really a competition against other people. It’s a competition against yourself. To ride that section clean after fiving it. To make it up the scary rock. To find that line that sets you up perfect for going in this curve. All the people that watch and encourage you. Give you tips so that next time you can pull off the perfect line. That one moment when you try so hard and finally clean the monster section that defeated you the first two loops.

I ended the day four out of eight for the amateur class with 37 points. Kind of sad point wise because I felt I rode a lot better than that, but I did have the four fives. And it was still a really great day, so I’m proud of my ride.

In the afternoon we checked upper section 3 (sportsman class up to pro). I finally pulled out my camera because I wanted to play with my polarization lens. I also had read some tips to start using a new more manual function on my camera. The section we were in wasn’t great for what a lot of people think as “action shots”, the big jumps off of rocks and stuff. But I loved the way our section was. It was a fight uphill, turning around on the face of the cliff, then back down through a slick dusty section filled with large rocks that moved and constantly shifted during the afternoon as people hit them. Still, most people rode it clean or with just a dab. However, more than one person got to the top, turned to go back down and exclaimed “That’s a lot steeper than I thought!”

Everything looks bigger when you’re actually on the back of the bike.

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It was a great afternoon, and sadly it had to end, but it was a great ending to a great weekend. That was the evening at El Rancho, and then just chilling out in the hotel room after a long, happy day.

I love the New Mexico group, and I can’t wait to go back. So until then, Trials Up!