Sunday, September 23, 2007

Prima Castimonia, the Default State

Our species, our social state as we have created it, have evolved (well, maybe evolve isn't the best term)...has transitioned through many incarnations. Hunter/gatherers, various preindustrial cultures, the beginnings of economy, moving ever farther from the Earth in a post-industrial electronic society...all of these changed and "advancements," though having supposedly improved our society (as most would agree) have also served to lead us to one end, that we are moving ever away from our Default State.

All people, all cultures and societies are created and born into a Default State of freedom, unburdendness, and happiness. However, we work and strive throughout our individual lives and societal histories to loose the freedom of our Default State, for the sake of advancement--however one wishes to define advancement On the surface this may seem logical, but it is also the ultimate incarnation of self-destruction. As we further distance ourselves from our Default State we loose more and more of our inborn innocence and thus, our happiness.

When you were but two year of age, you cared nothing for wages, or economy, or politics, or any of the other concerns which now undoubtedly fill our conscious mind. And I'll bet you were also happy. You cared about nothing more than dancing in the grass at the park, or hugging your mom and dad, or exploring the mysterious world beneath your bed. You cared not for things beyond that occasional dolly or G.I. Joe. This is what I speak of when I say Default State...our original state of purity in which we are free, our Prima Castimonia, if you will.

One can even take this thought to the societal level. If you look at the virgin, isolated, native tribes of the Amazon, like the Huaorani, you can see a people who live closer to the Default State than almost anyone else on the planet. They are not burdened by taxes, finances, mortgages, deadlines, traffic, or any of the other frivolous concerns of the so called "civilized" world. They might spend five or six hours a day tending to the needs of life, and spend the rest of their day with their family. We can even look at Europe and see a greater attention devoted to family, life, leisure, and happiness, than we ever see in the States. One might work six or seven hours in a day, then go home and completely leave work in the workplace, and think only of what is important in life, family, friends, and happiness. Hell, in France the law requires that one have 30 days vacation per year, in Canada they even require ten days, and they are happier for it. True, they may not make as much money per year as an American, but they don't care because they don't need that extra few dollars to be happy. Here we can see a closer proximity to the Default State, the Prima Castimonia. Now look at the US. No guaranteed vacation time, people work an average of 50 or even 60 hours per week (verses, for example, 35 hours, by law, in France), sure an American may have more money, but we also have a much higher rate of depression than almost anywhere in the world. This is an example of the benefits of be closer to the Default State and the consequences of straying ever farther from it. But I digress...

I believe that we as a people and as individuals must begin to seek and relearn our Prima Castimonia, to return, at least a little bit, to our Default State, for the closer one is to his or her Default, the happier and less burdened she or he shall live.

Such notions, being grand and simple simultaneously, are not always so easily found...this I know. It is much easier to speak of a return to simplicity than to actually live the change. However, one does not need to follow Thoreau into the woods to live more simply. One needs only to remove for his or her life the useless things, the needless clutter that not only makes a mess on the desk and just give you more things to dust, but also that clutter the mind and the soul.

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail."
-H. D. Thoreau
In short, the closer we can be to our Default State, the happier we are.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pre-holidays Springerle Test Run.

(Yes, I know, it's still too early for Christmasy stuff, but I wanted to give my new toy a spin.)

About this time last year, I became very interested in the art of springerle and other Old World Christmas cookies. At the time, however, I was unable to get any springerle molds and set my sights on the lebkuchen legacy (a blog to look for in coming months), and set aside my springerle dreams...until now.

I happened across the work Mr. Gene Wilson of Belleville, Illinois and his website, Hobi Cookie Molds. I looked about and almost immediately ordered my first hand carved springerle mold.

The molds features Weinachtsmann, one of what appear to be numerous variations of Santa in Germany. The mold is from Gene's Heirloom Springerle Collection, it measures three inches wide and five inches tall, and is 3/8 inch thick. The price was about even with most resin reproduction molds I've seen, at $26.

I am very impressed with the detail in the mold. The folds in Weinachtsmann's robe, the texture of the basket, the tree branches, even the three bags of's all there. But a mold is just a piece of kitchen decoration until one puts it to its intended use. So, I did.

The process of making springerle is pretty involved and requires a bit of planning. First, you have to let the dough rest and chill for two to three hours after mixing it. Second, after you do mold the cookies and cut them out, you have to let them dry on the counter for 12 to 24 hours. You then bake them "in a slow oven," which translates as 300º F, for 12 - 15 minutes. If that wasn't enough, after you cool them you need to let them "ripen" for a week (some recipes call for three weeks) in a container with a slice of bread. This lets you slowly reintroduce moisture into the cookies. Then you may enjoy.

I decided that I would use the included springerle recipe for my first try, and I'm fairly happy with the results.

They lack some of the finer details from the mold, but I guess you can't expect your first batch of springerle to be a blue ribbon entry. As you can see, they're quite puffy, which is a result I didn't see coming. Especially considering how flat and dense the dough was. When I broke one open (I couldn't help myself), the inside was almost cracker-like, with layers of air and cookie. Are they supposed to be like that?

I'll give them another try in a week or two, after my first batch ripens.

I'm already looking at the next molds I want to order from Mr. Wilson. This time I'm thinking...shortbread.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Great Wal-Mart Mango Mystery.

Can someone maybe clear this up for me?

I was at Wal-Mart (yes, Wal-Mart, so sue me, I needed socks) and happened past their produce section and was puzzled to see this...

"Sweetened Mango?"

And what, pray tell, is a sweetened mango? Please don't tell me that Wal-Mart, in their ongoing quest to homogenize the world, is artificially sweetening their fruit!? What's next, apples with high fructose corn syrup and red #40?

Can someone clarify this mystery for me?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Final Fantasy VII: Voices of the Lifestream released at Overclocked Remix

At the beginning of last year (28 January, 2006), over at Overclocked Remix (one of my frequent haunts), everyone's favorite remixer, composer, judge, and mod, Zircon, announced the formation of one of the most highly anticipated video game music remix projects in the site's history, Voices of the Lifestream, based on the ever popular and highly regarded Final Fantasy VII. For many months we in the OCR community waited and imagined the glorious arrival of the Project. And today, our eternal wait has come to an end...

The project spans an amazing four CDs with a total of 45 arrangements by 42 of the star Remixers from Overclocked, thus making it the largest OCR project to date.

Head over the the project's homepage to learn more about this amazing (and did I mention FREE) album, download the tracks, and learn about all the individuals involved in the project.

Great job, guys and gals, keep up the great remixing!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Peach Days and kick-ass fried chicken!

Today was the culmination of Brigham City's Peach Days festival.
Started in 1904 as a day-off from the harvest and time to celebrate "an abundance of the best peaches in Utah", this city-wide event is the longest continually celebrated harvest festival in Utah, and is reported to be the second oldest in the country. Peach Days is an honored tradition that brings approximately 75,000 spectators a fun-filled weekend that the Top of Utah and Southern Idaho residents look forward to every year.
That pretty much sums it up. As great as the fair itself is, I tend to look forward more to the trip home, when I get to stop in at the famous Maddox Ranch House and buy a box of their locally famous fried chicken and rolls.

This is serious chicken that cannot be beat. Unlike KFC or other restaurant fried chicken, Maddox does not drown theirs in batter. Instead, it's tossed in a mixture of corn meal, spices, bread crumbs, and probably a lot of other secret ingredients. The rolls are to die for; fluffy with an ever-so slight crunch to the crust. I'm pretty sure that butter, and a good amount of it, plays a role in their goodness. They also serve a killer honey-butter (pictured front and right).

Another perk to attending Peach Days is partaking in the event's namesake...peaches.

All along Highway 89 between Brigham City and North Ogden--a stretch of road known as the Fruit Way--local farms and orchards set-up stands and small markets to sell their freshest produce. Peaches are among the favorite crops of the area. I foresee some pies, preserves, and cobblers in the very near future. ^_^