Making space for mindful time in 3 simple steps

Feeling rushed by obligations and buried in chaos?

Morning space and time may help you set a confident pace for your day. Crafting mindful mornings is an art that needs intentional space for full expression. As a loss and life adjustment consultant trained in architecture and philosophy here is how I make room for my morning mindfulness routine.

Step 1: Clear one seat. Not a room. Not a big space. Just one comfortable chair, yoga mat, bed, step, any place where you can get comfortable. Don’t get sidetracked into cleaning an entire room. This adds yet another obligation to your load. My seat is a simple orange upholstered wide sofa in my study that I try to keep clear and open.  

Step one is about identifying and giving yourself a space, location, and foundation for you-time.

Space for Time

Step 2: Clear space for one view. It can be a window, a picture, a candle. My window looks onto a suburban cul-de-sac, so I added little things I find beautiful, funny and calming on the window sill. Again, focus on just one view, spaces on your side and behind you can be filled with laundry, dishes, papers, toys, the mess of life. The key here is to curate a supportive perspective unique to you.

Step two helps you build emotional connections and boundaries, walls and windows that set and clarify your perspective from your chosen seat.

Step 3: Choose something to touch. Something soothing like a blanket, a pillow, or a stuffed animal.  Choose something to hear like music, wind-chimes or nature sounds. Choose a comforting smell like incense, perfume, fruit, candles. I keep jasmine incense, a soft pillow to hold, and bird feeder outside my window. All three remind me of my time growing up in Bangladesh. For me, holding the warm cup of tea on my soft pillow while incense swirls in front of the window and birds chirp outside is calming.

Step three aims to support sensory comfort and safety through your personal choices.

Something to hold

How would you design your space for time?

Try sitting in your space for mindful time for 21 days. See if you notice any shifts in your self-confidence and let me know.

Shortcake in Dhaka: Raymond Loewy and Culinary Metaphors in Design

This post reports on a 2012 lecture delivered at BRAC University in Dhaka, Bangladesh about “Strawberry Shortcake and Raymond Loewy’s Sears Cold Spot Super Six Refrigerator.” The invitation, content and response to the lecture practice a form of global design history that mediates cultural criteria of taste. In order to articulate design possibilities inherent in the public implications of personal preferences, the lecture hoped to generate a conversation about the relevance of design history for design practice in Bangladesh.

Method and Thesis

The lecture arose out of a larger book project that considers the role of metaphorical logic in Raymond Loewy’s 1951 autobiography, Never Leave Well Enough Alone.[1] The project offered a celebratory and cautionary reading of the autobiography and investigates the implications of his MAYA principle of palatable design for 20th Century American democracy. Using culinary references as metaphors of consumption and taste, the interpretation charts the evolution and decline of Raymond Loewy as a personification of industrial design’s superficial and substantive contributions to the American dream. In light of the eventual bankruptcy of Loewy International in 1976, his 1951 autobiography becomes a poignant self-aware and self-fulfilling statement of loss. The aim of the larger project was threefold:

  1. Offer exegetical analysis of Never Leave Well Enough Alone as an object of design mediated by Loewy’s construction of metaphors.
  2. Through a deconstructive reading of the text chart the demise of Loewy International as an inevitable culmination of Loewy’s MAYA principle.
  3. Place Loewy through his writing within a larger discussion about the material manifestation of democracy in 20th Century America.

The metaphorical, deconstructive and democratic reading of Loewy’s autobiography hoped to shed new light on American modern design and expose the public implications of our personal preferences as consumers and producers. Furthermore, the project suggested that in the post-industrial age of DIY, customization, 3D printing and user participation, articulations of emotive personal experiences and rationally deliberated public choice characterizes the democratic agency of design.

The primary goal of the class session in Dhaka was to test the pedagogical application of this metaphorical, deconstructive and democratic design history.  Specifically, I wanted to encourage design students to analyze the public and professional implications of their personal preferences as exemplified by Raymond Loewy’s autobiography. A convergence of the autobiographical, political and professional, characterizes Loewy’s successful period of production between 1930s and 1960s. Correspondingly disconnect evident in incomplete metaphors like “Swiss cheese and rye” accompany the decline of his practice. Learning from Loewy’s lesson, can designers translate their individual consumption habits into shared consumption? If we apply a metaphorical perspective to design inspiration, what directions might emerge?

Anatomy of the Class Session

Between two options on lecture topics, the BRAC University Dean of Architecture chose the option that discussed the design implications of American industrial designer Raymond Loewy’s preference for strawberry shortcake as a model for American identity and consumption habits. The other option was a lecture on William Morris and the critical relevance of the Arts and Crafts movement for Bangladesh that could re-contextualize issues of sustainability, craft, labor, materials, subjective expression and mechanical production. The dean’s choice of topic showed a preference for present relevance of disciplinary practice over historical re-interpretation. As such, the class session was motivated by an imperative to make design history directly relevant to studio practice rather than through a discussion about historical reception. The analysis of metaphors as design inspiration hoped to expose designer motivations instead of user interpretations.

I began the session by asking each student to write down a favorite food or dish (as it was the month of Ramadan, I subsequently apologized profusely for asking them to think about food at a time when many would be fasting). Not knowing the reason for writing down such a personal preference certainly left students trained towards rational responses somewhat confused. Despite their initial reluctance many did scribble down their preference.

Next, I spoke about French immigrant industrial designer Raymond Loewy’s chapter on “American Cooking” in his autobiography 1951 Never Leave Well Enough Alone. I made the argument that Loewy’s celebration of burgers and strawberry shortcake was consistent with his design aesthetic. I explained that:

Loewy invited a French friend of his for dinner in order to defend the reputation of American food. His menu consisted of cream of clams, fried chicken, corn fritters, braised endive, romaine salad and ended with strawberry shortcake.  He wrote, 

“The strawberry short cake was a dream. The old-fashioned biscuit was covered with a generous amount of ripe strawberries at the last minute to avoid sogginess. The fruit had been crushed ever so slightly and allowed to remain for an hour or so in a light syrup to which it transferred its flavor and its adorable pinkness. A restrained amount of fluffy whipped cream was placed on top. An important point: the cake as oven warmed, but the strawberries and whipped cream were cool. The contrast is pleasing.” [2]

The philosophy of simple and few ingredients, timely preparation, restrained cream and contrasting textures, I suggested, extended into his design. His Cold Spot Super Six can be interpreted to follow the same principle of the cake: Few parts, as in the few moving parts, restrained garnish as in the 3 vertical bands, contrast in texture, unity of exterior and compartments of interior etc. This retention of details, the haunting of the hausfrou aesthetic, supports his MAYA principle that his book advocates. The MAYA principle, an acronym, was a call to design with the MOST ADVANCED YET ACCEPTABLE technology. The three vertical stripes were the garnishes that made the technology of the refrigerator acceptable or palatable to American aesthetic taste.

This lesson of acceptability Loewy learned from the American housewives he criticized as being responsible for bland aesthetic and food. It was the housewives, who were the primary customers and consumers of his domestic products. He sought aesthetic balance between functionality and decorative that would make his Cold Spot Super Six so very popular (sales rose over 300%). By changing the ratio between the functional and the decorative, Loewy found the sweet spot of mid century modern American taste.

I summarized Loewy’s appreciation of strawberry shortcake in relation to his disdain for mayonnaise, I compared it to Adolf Loos’ celebration of roast beef, and finally, I connected Loewy’s ornament to function ratio evident in his refrigerator to the ratio of whip cream to shortcake.  My reading of Loewy’s culinary descriptions as metaphors for design connected the form of his refrigerator with the form of his dessert. Having charted the narrative, the relevance and the implication of Raymond Loewy’s preference for strawberry shortcake, I then asked the students to look at the food preference they wrote down. How would they translate their preference into a design aesthetic, as Loewy had?

Emergent Metaphors

The discussion that the story prompted is evidence of the critical and creative capacity of design history interpreted through cultural metaphors. In particular, the use of culinary metaphors permitted an analysis of rational relationships without privileging a particular system. For example, instead of conceptually arguing the merits of Loewy’s MAYA principle, we were able to discuss his logic of essential and ornamental dynamics.  I would like to highlight three questions that generated most dialogue related to attempts to translate cultural and culinary taste into visual taste.

1. Pizza and the Problem of Definition

When asked to share their food preferences, one student said that pizza was his favorite food. I should confess that I was expecting local dishes to be local favorites and that the preference for pizza surprised me. The student’s choice made me aware of my own simplistic cultural expectations. We asked, how would a preference for pizza translate into a local aesthetic? In trying to articulate the essential ingredients and structure of a pizza, the discussion quickly became about definitions of pizza. We identified the essential ingredients as dough, sauce and cheese. The ratio of these ingredients would determine a taste for the ornamental or the functional.  Toppings, beyond the three essential ingredients would be considered ornamental, even if meat.  We arrived at an aesthetic principle, whereby the essential and the ornamental were articulated through applied toppings over the basic ingredients of cheese, dough and sauce. This is when the logic of cheese, dough and sauce, was questioned. What if, what is understood as ‘pizza’ in Bangladesh is not consistent with what is understood as ‘pizza’ elsewhere? For example, many street vendors sell small flat dough rounds with a bit of sauce and meat, with little or no cheese, as pizza. Would that become the local articulation of a Western recipe? For people unaware of ‘Pizza Hut’ or American pizza, that would be the standard. What is the standard structure of pizza? Who decides? When does the definition of pizza fail?  Ironically, the minimal cheese version of pizza in Bangladesh, I suggested may be closer to the traditional Italian pizza. This comment raised another layer of complexity related to cultural translations of culinary recipes and by extension aesthetic criteria. We had started by talking about the proportion of essential and inessential, functional and ornamental, as a way to structure taste, yet the discussion quickly turned to the global flexibility of culinary definitions, and consequently aesthetic standards.  The problem of definitive aesthetic standards exposes an imperative towards an individual narrative of design. Depending on how a designer defines pizza, he or she can use it as a culinary recipe worthy of visual translation. The pizza metaphor allowed us to reconsider criteria of aesthetic relationships. How could we reimagine the Cold spot refrigerator through the logic of pizza, instead of strawberry shortcake? Would we allow more customizable ornamentation?

We also talked about how Loewy’s preference for burgers carried a different implication than the student’s preference for pizza. Loewy appreciated the portability, individuality of diner burgers. A pizza, although layered, is meant for collective consumption or individual slices. An aesthetic derived from a metaphor of pizza would permit, an individual and/or a collective experience, a casual but not portable experience, and a standard form with customizable options. The discussion of pizza was a proxy discussion about aesthetic structures through experiences of taste rather than stylistic conceptualizations.

2. Chicken Curry and the problem of a western meat and gravy dynamic

We also considered a cultural problem with Loewy’s identification of meat with the essential. In a Bengali context where spices determine the character of a dish, the significance of the protein content diminishes. In an attempt to apply Loewy’s logic to chicken curry our discussion faltered. Related to the question of definition, we asked, what makes a curry, the choice of protein, the method or the spices? The group agreed that the combination of spices determine the character of a curry. However without the meat, lentils or vegetables the spices would have no substance to adhere. The structure of curry seems to resist analysis into distinct components. The western criteria of layering fails when the ingredients are so inextricably codetermined that ascribing value as essential and inessential becomes impossible. There is no hierarchy of ingredients. How would such taste visually translate? How would we visually design without hierarchy but with coherent complexity? What makes a chicken curry cohesive? We considered not only the significance of multiplicity but also the increased role of process and layering of tastes. What would be a way to construct a layered and complex visual experience? Here Loewy’s promotion of simplicity through the metaphor of the strawberry shortcake failed to resonate.

3. Cardamom and the problem of qualified consumption

A third issue addressed during our discussion, concerned spices used for flavoring but not meant for consumption. For example, cardamom, tastes horrible, yet is deemed necessary for an enhanced smell.  Just as cinnamon bark or bay leaves are used extensively with the assumption that the diner will consciously not ingest these spices. How do we understand these intentional production inclusions and exclusions in consumption? This issue related to taste and use depends on local culinary convention. What may be equivalent visual conventions? A basic understanding of the use of spices is needed in order for the consumer to determine which spices are meant for direct consumption. How do we understand and design for process residue? How do we resolve the paradox of spices essential for taste but not consumption? In the Loewy logic of essential and ornamental, what would cardamom be defined as? The problem of cardamom returns us to the limits of the Loewy logic whereby design distinctions between the essential and the ornamental are culturally and locally determined.

Conclusion: Towards A Metaphorical History of Design?

These problems of interpretation, definition and application allow us to rethink design as a constructed dynamic between the practical and the symbolic, the essential and the superficial. It allowed for a shared discussion about design history and philosophy by proxy through a discussion about our personal experiences of food. My primary teaching intent was to expose the creative potential of personal narrative in design disciplines. I invoked Loewy’s autobiographical moment as a way to reinforce the professional implications of personal preferences. In doing so, I hoped students would find design potential inherent in their personal passions and choices, beyond culinary examples.

About teaching design history in Bangladesh, the lecture reminded me that local design identity is complex and not simply a matter of Western engagement or non-engagement. The students as cosmopolitan citizens of the world live multi-cultural lives where local and global influences are indistinguishable.[3] They are less interested in a quest for local identity and more interested in a search for global relevance. I suspected that if I present design principles instead of forms then possible options for applications would increase.  For example by introducing the MAYA principle in association with Loewy’s personal preferences and aesthetic criteria, instead of simply introducing Loewy and his streamline look of the Coldspot Super Six, we open interpretative possibilities beyond identifying a historical moment of stylistic evolution.

The class discussion helped me interpret my own research from an oblique and peripheral perspective. Reading Loewy in Dhaka highlighted his philosophy as premised on cultural assumptions that require critique for inspiration and qualified application. His designs were most successful when his metaphors resonated with his target audience in America. He identified his own style as contemporary American, not modern, not streamlined. He deliberately tried to merge American tradition with mechanical simplicity. As a Frenchman, cultural interpretation was a necessary condition for the development of his profession in the U.S. and the definition of his MAYA principle. Ironically, the success and failure of his design firm rested on his interpretative capacity to determine cultural acceptability.

About the use of metaphorical interpretation as a design method, I agree with John Maeda’s formulation that,

Metaphors are useful platforms for transferring a large body of existing knowledge from one context to another with minimal, often imperceptible, effort on the part of the person crossing the conceptual bridge. But metaphors are only deeply engaging if they surprise along some unexpected, positive dimension……A metaphor used as a learning shortcut for a complex design is most effective when its execution is both relevant and delightfully unexpected.[4]

Metaphors allow us to reinterpret the familiar through a change in perspective. Serving strawberry shortcake in Dhaka was an unexpected pedagogical way to introduce Raymond Loewy’s design inspiration as a provocation for students to rethink their own design motivations outside the studio. Design history can be a tool for practice only if it can lead designers back to the studio, obliquely, by orientation outside the studio. The metaphorical approach allowed us to have a design conversation about seemingly “undesigned” experiences of taste and sensation.

Similarly, In Metaphors We Live By, authors Lakoff and Johnson, argue that metaphors are a coherence of experienced connections that challenge a conceptual correspondence theory of reality.[5] The advantage of a metaphorical interpretation is at least twofold: first, it permits connections of otherwise unrelated experiences and second, metaphors allow us to focus on lived experience over conceptual abstraction through partial structuring. Lakoff and Johnson, distinguish metaphorical structuring (example: argument is war) from conceptual subcategorization (example: an argument is a conversation) and explain that metaphors allow orientation, variation, direction, emotion, and cultural mediation. Most significantly, for design, metaphorical structuring by designers allows comparisons and translations of experiences rather than concepts. According to Lakoff and Johnson,

From the experientialist perspective, metaphor is a matter of imaginative rationality. It permits an understanding of one kind of experience in terms of another, creating coherence by virtue of imposing gestalts that are structured by natural dimensions of experience. New metaphors are capable of creating new understandings and therefore, new realities.[6]

Successful new metaphors are able to resonate with others by structurally re-interpreting shared imagination and experiences. For example, Raymond Loewy’s example of burgers as a portable and layered bite of democracy was a relatable way to describe modern American living without formality.  By appealing to culinary metaphors of consumption, a designer can construct systems of coherence that shares personal experience. From Raymond Loewy we learn that the social resonance of these translated lived experiences determines, design success. We also learn the commercial and cultural limits of shared object focused experience. Particularly, as we shift towards the design of integrated experiences over the design of distinct products, the metaphor of dining experience offers clues toward constructing a narrative of tastes that encompass multi-senses and multi-cultures.  Shortcake in Dhaka facilitated a discussion about cross-cultural cooking metaphors as relevant to design practice. Furthermore, the discussion offered a post-colonial moment of reversal in perspective that challenged conventional interpretations of the MAYA principle.[7] The session practiced a metaphorical translation of experience into design motivation and made design history a tool for practice in the following ways:

First, the metaphorical interpretation framed a trans-cultural discussion about design inspiration. It allowed for a conversation about a shared experience of eating to be qualified by subjective experiences of taste. The response to the question, how could your favorite food motivate your design aimed to prompt considerations of identity, everyday practice, intentionality that shows everyday experience outside the studio as the possibility of conceptual projections in the studio.

Second, the discussion moved between gastronomic taste and visual taste and encouraged students to imagine multi-sensory experiences of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. This way design inspiration can be invoked from experiences beyond visual response.

Third, the metaphorical interpretation of Loewy’s autobiography presented living experience as a condition of design inspiration. Indeed, the students live a global condition of eating pizza and curry in Dhaka. Instead of conceptualizing design and globalization, students recognize their everyday lives as a global encounters, at the dinner table, in the streets and in the studio.

The metaphorical reading enhanced both the pedagogical and critical potential of design history. This may be a small but significant step towards articulating a multi-cultural conversation centered on diversity of experience and unity of objective materiality. It relates to current efforts towards global design history that overcomes center-periphery dynamics, a Western meta-narrative and an academic dominance of the English language. The Loewy metaphor of strawberry shortcake exposed continuities of personal and professional activities, experience and concept, consumption and production. In turn, the qualified metaphorical resonance of strawberry shortcake in Dhaka, as a discussion about the dynamics between fundamental and ornamental features, actively demonstrated cultural constructions of design connections.

In short, multi-cultural, multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experiences exposed by metaphorical interpretations of design history empower designers to construct their own “new realities.”

[1] Raymond Loewy, Never Leave Well Enough Alone. 1951. Baltimore: John Hopkins University.

[2] Raymond Loewy, Never Leave Well Enough Alone. 1951. Baltimore: John Hopkins University.

[3] Geeta Kapur, essay in Contemporary Art in Asia, 2011. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

[4] John Maeda, The Laws of Simplicity. 2006. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. p. 41.

[5] Lakoff and Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. 1980. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[6] Ibid, 235. Emphasis to the phrase “Imaginative rationality” is mine.

[7] Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture. 1994. Oxford: Routledge.

Image and recipe for Strawberry Shortcake from:

Strawberry Shortcake

Three steps forward…

Two steps back, is still progress right? At least movement.

In the therapy process we are looking for movement, doesn’t matter which direction. Movement shows struggle, shows vitality, shows emotional effort, even if in the seemingly negative direction.

Aristotle defines life as movement between contraries. If we are all composed of many parts, many contradictions, the movement of our attention and energy signals our soul in motion, alive and becoming. Like a designed work of art…

...”For a house is generated from objects which exist not in composition but are divided in a certain way, and likewise for a statue or anything that has been shaped from shapelessness; and what results in each of these are order in one case and composition in the other.

If, then, all this is true, everything that is generated or destroyed is so from or to a contrary or an intermediate. As for the intermediate, they are composed of contraries; the other colors, for example, are composed of white and black. Thus every thing which is generated by nature is a contrary or composed of contraries.”

from Aristotle’s Physics, Book A

Therapists will recognize this as resonant with Internal Family Systems, grief and loss integration, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and other systems that are premised on behavior change by integrating internal opposition.

In working with a client, we as counselors or therapists are guiding the recognition and acceptance of conflicting emotions. Here is my question for my fellow counselors out there….

How do you as a therapist integrate a conflicting sense of relief and shame when a client goes inpatient?

As you can see, I am trying to intellectualize and hide in my happy place of philosophy. This is still difficult for me to digest. If feel like I go three steps forward and two steps back in these situations. I have to remind myself that movement is good regardless of direction.

What are your strategies in addition to talking with peers and supervisors for support as I am now?

Thank you for reading the long prelude to the question.

Hope you are fully alive with contradictions,


Hungry Philosopher and Starving Artists


( you are good at that my artist and creative friends),

you walk into my counseling office.

You seat yourself in a red mid-century modern chair. No arm rests. You fold your hands on your lap and notice that you are sitting upright. You allow yourself to lean into the back support. You look around for clues to what might happen next: the white board, the desk, the pens, the walls, me across from you. Your eyes rest on the rug under your feet. I ask you…..

How do you feel about your art?

You are most welcome to share your thoughts in the comments below or just hold them gently in your heart.

Hungry philosophers and starving artists are always looking to fill themselves with meaning and beauty. How do you endure the uncertain tide of human feelings, starting with your own? How do you allow as Betye Saar says “creative grieving”?

Artist Betye Saar with a background that includes social work and design, my hero, talks about risking ridicule in efforts to raise universal consciousness and in dealing with personal emotions. I wonder how she would answer my soft question. In a way it maybe easier to talk about the role of art for society than the role of art for you or your relationship to your own art.

“I think the chanciest thing is to put spirituality in art,” Ms. Saar says as she gently shifts elements of the assemblage around, trying this combination and that. “Because people don’t understand it. Writers don’t know what to do with it. They’re scared of it, so they ignore it. But if there’s going to be any universal consciousness-raising, you have to deal with it, even though people will ridicule you.”

“And you have to deal with personal emotions, because they’re there,” she added. “I think people are afraid of those too. My younger sister’s husband died this year. I said to her, you’ve got to start making something beautiful. Beauty is a form of spirituality. Once you start making something with your hands, the healing starts. I call this creative grieving.”

– Betye Saar

Being Extra: the sauce of life

I am an extra.

I am a non-speaking character in a coffee shop background sipping coffee and staring at my laptop. There are raindrops on the windows, a blade of grass moving in the wind outside, cars moving past on the road, murmuring conversations, a large orange sculpture, a concrete floor, a sneeze, a ding, words, a child’s cry, salt and pepper shakers, iphones, mugs, music wafting above the hum of mid-morning conversations, a green shirt, smell of eggs and coffee, fingers on the keyboard, people behind the counter waiting, people behind the counter making lunch, yellow road signs, an itch on the neck, words on the wall, wood tables, metal chairs, stripes and me.

I don’t despair being an extra. Extras in books, movies or television are never credited with names, just actions, like, “shop keeper” or “crying child.” I am a silent actor in your story, a voiced actor in mine. You can only see my actions, my role as an extra. You don’t see my inner monologue, my struggles, my joys, my worries or my guilt. Recognizing that I am an extra in the world, a silent actor is surprisingly empowering. As you walk by my table where I type, I can trip you or smile, I may not change your story but I color it with my actions. I don’t have to be the main protagonist. The main character depends on the extra. That is the secret: we are all extras. Being extra. I came to see myself as an extra and found an extraordinary life. I stopped trying to be named, stopped trying to be the main character, a proper noun.

Philosophy, art, religions all try to address our longing to connect to something larger, more meaningful than us. This is another attempt. An extra attempt.

We all share the small things, like coffee cups, salt, phones, chairs and walls and the big, like cities, roads, landscapes, clouds, and water. How we focus shape how our individual perspectives live and interact. You are an extra in the stories of almost everyone you meet today. You can probably count the people in your life who are essential on your fingers.

You are an extra.

Moving beyond identity politics, religion, gender, into object-hood into being extra. Being both more and less. Being Extra.

Depending on your outlook you could interpret the title “Being Extra” as either as being more, extraordinary or being waste, extraneous. We are always both: extraordinary and extraneous. It depends on your taste.

I arrived at this question when reading Adolf Loos’ modernist manifesto Ornament and Crime. All sauces he said was ornamental. The modern man eats roast beef. From my South Asian perspective, beef was ornamental, mostly used as a flavoring for curries and only the main component twice a year, weddings and celebrations when a sacrifice was offered. Always ritualized and associated with a momentous occasion.

Adolf Loos’ food example to explain modern architecture and design stuck in my thoughts.

What are your favorite sauces? Your favorite extras? Do you add spicy hot sauce to your dishes, maybe sweet-salty honey mustard, or maybe tart-sweet bbq sauce? How do you flavor your life?

Dessert is always extra, more than, beyond functional, ornamental and as a habit, dangerously unhealthy. Maybe that’s why we crave it. A British Toffee Pudding Cake draped in sweet toffee sauce is definitely extra. Here is a recipe.

Wishing you extra,





Happy Birthday Refrigerator

We thought our refrigerator was getting old. It was humming, sweating and not cooling enough. One day my husband reached under and realized the filter hadn’t been cleaned perhaps…..ever! Once the thick collection of fuzzies was removed, our old fridge was vindicated and fine. It just needed some love and attention, and cleaning.

Thank you dear refrigerator for holding vegetables to be cooked, various condiments to lather over salads and fries, drinks of all sizes and flavors to soothe thristy kids, and oh so precious left-overs. Because of you, I dont have to go to the grocery store everyday, because of you I have a ready supply of frozen vegetables and ice-cream, because of you I just had a blueberry smoothie blended with orange juice and yoghurt. It was refreshing.

Although you are wonderful, you are not blameless. Sometimes, things sit and rot in the bins, sometimes left-overs are forgotten, sometimes sour smells waft.

My stainless steal double door refriegerator owes much to Raymond Loewy’s 1934 Sear Coldspot Super Six that introduced the clean deco beauty of modern kitchens. That historic moment of profit by aesthetics fueled the new profession of industrial design. Kitchens became the domestic locus of modernity and replaced the hearth as the center of a home. After all, when my kids come home, we find them infront of the refrigerator, not the fireplace or stove.

Happy Birthday, Refrigerators!

Thank you Writer’s Almanac for the reminder:

The first refrigerator was patented in the United States on this date in 1899. The practice of preserving food by keeping it cold had been around for hundreds of years. At first, this meant burying it deep in the ground, or submerging it in cold streams. In 18th-century England, people collected sheets of ice in the winter and put it in specially constructed underground ice houses, where it was salted and wrapped in flannel to preserve it until the summer. That led to the development of the slightly more portable icebox: a wooden box lined with tin and insulated with cork or sawdust. A Scot named William Cullen publicly demonstrated the first artificial cooling system in 1755, but he didn’t put his invention to any practical use.

Modern artificial cooling systems work by compressing gas into a liquid state, and then allowing it to evaporate into a gas again, in a small space. This process removes heat from the surrounding area, and its discovery paved the way for the development of more advanced artificial cooling machines in the early 1800s. At first they were used in a hospital setting, to cool the air for yellow fever patients. But these early refrigeration machines used toxic gases, which created serious problems if the compression system developed a leak.

None of these early attempts — successful though they may have been — were granted a patent in the United States. It was the work of Albert T. Marshall that was finally deemed worthy, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued the first American refrigerator patent on this date in 1899. In 1918, the Frigidaire Company was founded to manufacture home refrigerators. The market grew in the 1920s and ’30s with the development of Freon, which was a safe alternative to toxic gases; by the end of World War II, no modern kitchen was without one. It wasn’t just a convenience for housewives. Artificial refrigeration revolutionized the way food was produced, and refrigerated rail cars made it possible to transport perishable foods over great distances.

Here’s a food poem Deep in Our Refrigerator


Mario Batali on Creative Discipline

I love to cook. LOVE to eat. Love to watch and read anything related to cooking and eating. I watched Food Network grow up along with my daughter born in 1995. My love of cooking and my children are so interwoven that I can’t help but think of one without the other.

Conventional wisdom tells us to “do what you are passionate about.” I am certainly passionate about food but I don’t want to do it professionally.

For one simple reason:  I am incapable of consistency.

Skill-wise, I am a culinary child bouncing between passionate experimentation. My cooking doesn’t have the maturity of disciplined and consistent devotion.

I admire those who can run restaurants, catering businesses and the most attractive of all… trucks. But I am content with my “Try the World Boxes,” my “spicebar” experimentations, my Lucky Peach, Southern Living, Saveur, Cooking Light sticky notes.

After all, I have practice being an admirer of the arts as a design historian and as a philosopher focused on aesthetics. I am a trained spectator and cheerleader. An appreciative eater and a curious cook.

I will not be the next Food Network Star. Or, the next celebrity chef. And, that’s absolutely okay.

After reading Mario Batali’s article in Lucky Peach, I feel reassured of my decision NOT to attend culinary school or embark on a culinary career despite my long-standing fascination.

When you go to these three-star Michelin restaurants, repetition is the fundamental driving truth behind it, not that the cooks got whipped. It’s that they had to do it again and again and again. And you go to Michel Guérard or Roger Vergé and you have those zucchini blossoms stuffed with the black truffle and the little porky thing that’s around it. Thirty-five years on that dish is still a revolution; it’s still unbelievable. It’s not just creativity—sometimes it’s productivity and repetition. That’s discipline. It’s hard for people to understand that repetition is the discipline that these guys think they’re missing because no one can anymore.

Wise chef Batali explains the need for repetition and discipline in shaping super chefs – “it’s not just creativity – sometimes it’s productivity and repetition.”

Particularly, in the West where creativity and individuality are highly prized, the crucial role of simple repetition gets lost.  The culinary need for discipline holds true for any arts,  whether visual or performing. Discipline sharpens creativity.

I’m happy to waft in and out of the kitchen, my messy playground. Sometimes I’m lucky to be an appreciative eater of work by disciplined culinary designers.

Wishing you happy weekend eats,



For the full article click the link below:






Amplifying: Visual Strategies of the Women’s March

We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. —- President Donald Trump, Inauguration Speech, 1/20/2017

What do the posters tell us about the Women’s March?

As it evolved from post-election despair, I hoped that the Women’s March would become an affirmation of unity instead of a flat rejection of the ideological personality of Donald Trump. To me, the five images chosen by the Amplifier Foundation does just that by highlighting the struggle between the conceptual and the concrete, the abstract and the material, and the biological and the cultural.


The “Hear Our Voice” poster eloquently presents unity in diversity in form, color, and background. Notice the abstracted black fist with the red flame that supports the three distinct and individualized hands, one with a ring, one with bracelets and one with nail polish. Notice the visual movement from the bottom text to the collective birdsong. The bird, the shared voice is the only diagonal in the image that breaks the unity and symmetry of the image. Notice the starry blue background that references the United States of America. Notice the colors and the use of blood red. Notice the handcrafted quality of the image. This poster represents doing without the comfort of pristine ideology. For artists out there saying you can do better. Do it. There is room for more vision. This poster is only one of five on one website. “Hear our voice” is a call to act, to listen. It paints an alternative picture of collaboration and action, against masculine competition fueled by greed, violence and empty egotistical ideology.

If we read the Women’s March Principles (addressing issues of violence, reproduction, LGBQTIA, work, civil rights, disability, immigration and environment) with this visual in mind, we see the movement towards unity as THE struggle, irrespective of coming and going political establishments. Where human rights can be abstract and universal, Women’s rights depend on the immediacy of blood and local support. How can we take care of our sisters despite our disagreements? How can we have a working conversation about sensitive and intimate problems about our bodies, our work, and our loved ones? None of us have the answer to these questions on our own. That’s the point. That’s what the poster and the march are about.

Previously, I had considered the visual strategies of the Occupy Wall Street posters. The Women’s March offers an alternative and parallel world of action. It asks, what if we value collaborative action over power secured through profit?

For me, the Women’s March is about amplifying our common needs despite our biological, cultural, political and economic differences.

I join my daughter, you and yours at the Women’s March in Washington and beyond,

Walking with you always,

Mom, sister, friend, hungryphil, Lisa

For more posters go to


Inorganic Recipes from Artist Charles A. Gick


Don’t miss this extraordinary exhibition about ordinary things, like dirt and spoons. Here is why…

This local studio to gallery recipe grows out of a Catholic farming family in Indiana. Artist and inorganic chef, Charles Gick, has been perfecting the cracked earth recipe since his childhood on the farm, drawing with a stick on summer mud. The exhibition is a culmination of his first tastes of meditative marking, multi-medium expression and elemental reverie. His work is as primal as the first cave etchings and as contemplative as the black paintings in Rothko Chapel. Cracked earth, both atmospheric and sculptural, becomes the ground for offerings and incomplete messages that either hover above or sit unanchored. On the slabs of cracked mud we taste the farm in the collective labor that stretches between the trucks of earth, the mixing of wet mud, the drying until cracked. Through this strange and shared effort of working the earth Gick cultivates a meditative space. The broken earth’s hunger for the clouds reminds us of a simple farming truth: blooming requires others. Gick distills the bittersweet taste of this farming truth by framing raw, earthworm etched, air-dried, messy dirt with intentional clean clarity, like all sophisticated farm-to-table dishes that celebrate the ingredients. His skill as an inorganic chef finds full expression in his ability to balance the raw and the refined. Not only is he able to balance sorrow and delight, longing and union, vulgar and elegant, he is also able to offer these tastes in multiple mediums and forms. His work includes performance, painting, sculpture, photography, design and video, so people with diverse aesthetic palates can find something to savor. The slabs of cracked earth become meditative totems, prayers for clouds. It materializes, an ethereal longing for the other. Enjoy these recipes for cracked earth, empty… and full… and taste your own muddy and cloudy longings.


Makes 2 (16’X16’ Slabs)

  • Local dirt 10 tons
  • Water 850 gallons


  • 1 Truck with a hydraulic lift bed to transport, deliver, and dump dirt
  • 3-5 Human beings to mix and transport the mud
  • 1 spade and 1 shovel to scoop dirt from dirt pile and place into buckets
  • 1 – 3’x3’ wire sifter to shift out dirt clods
  • Wheelbarrow to transport dirt to fill the buckets
  • 3 electric drills with dry wall mixing blades to mix the dirt and water
  • 25 – 5 gallon buckets to mix and hold the mud
  • A large cart on casters to transport the buckets of mud
  • 1 floor scraper to clean the floor of splattered mud
  • 2 commercial floor drying fans (additional small fans can be used as needed) to help expedite the drying and cracking process
  • 16 sheets of 4’ x 8’ – 5/8” plywood
  • 24 – 8’, 2”x6” pine
  • 8 – 16’, 2”x6” pine
  • 150 linear feet of pine screen bead board
  • 1 miter saw
  • 1 cross saw
  • 1 coping saw
  • 1 miter box
  • 150 – 7/8” metal brads to secure the screen bead board to edges of platform
  • 40 – 3” wood screws to secure the outside corners and end pieces of platform
  • 400 – 1-1/4” or longer wood screws to secure plywood to platform
  • 4 tubes of silicone calking and 1 calk gun to seal seams of plywood
  • 2 – 3 gallons of paint to paint the surface of the platform
  • Paint roller and paint tray
  • Wet/dry vacuum and a mop and bucket and broom to clean dust and water off of the gallery floor
  • 1 – 10’ x 100’ 6mil black poly sheeting to protect the gallery floor from moisture from pouring mud onto platforms
  • 4 – 16’, 1”x6” pine boards for the outer walls of mud mold
  • 2 – 8’, x 1”x6” pine boards to build a dam while pouring mud


  1. Build platform: First lay down a 20’X20” square of heavy plastic to protect gallery floor from the mud and water. It is imperative to be a considerate guest artist. Build platform, a 14’X14’ base with evenly spaced joists that can bear the weight of mud. Screw the 16’X16’ plywood top to cantilever over the base. Be sure to make the seams minimal. Each seam is an invitation for a water leak. Apply chalking over each seam in a futile nature-defying attempt at waterproofing.

Next add the 1” X 6” wood strip around the platform perimeter creating a frame to hug and constrict the mud. Apply black Gorilla Tape at the seam to prevent the escape of water to the floor. Now the platform is ready to receive the mixed wet mud.

  1. Mix mud: Ask politely for the dirt to be delivered and dumped outside. Shovel or spade scoopfuls of mud to be sifted and shaken. Much like baking a satiny smooth cake the sifting allows the removal of big clumps. If banana bread like texture is desired, leave dirt un-sifted. Note the difference in the two cracked earth slabs: The one holding the cloud dome is less sifted and has more texture while the slab under the earth and sky coat has less.

Using a wheelbarrow, transport dirt to the interior space closer to a water source. This transfer may also offer relief from hot Indiana summer days. Scoop dirt into 25 – 5 gallon buckets. Using a drill, mix 2 to 3 gallons of water to each bucket until a thick cake batter state is achieved. Relying on a table with castors and the energy of 3 people, push 25 buckets close to the platform in the gallery. Walk up onto platform as needed. Construct a sidewalk concrete pour-like dam that will permit a slow and controlled pour. Each dammed section will be limited by the stretch of your body. Pour mud until a thickness of 5” is reached. Repeat until the full 16’X16’ square pan is filled.

  1. Let dry: Do not be alarmed when water rises to top. The rising water allows for a brownie like crusty surface (a ¼ inch of water floating on top is fine). If a heavy spot of water develops use wet-dry vacuum to pull the water away without touching the surface.

Use commercial fans to hasten the drying process. Rotate fans around every couple days. Be sure to face fans in the same single direction so that air travels across the surface, like wind over the landscape. Do not create tornado conditions. Allow for 2 weeks of drying time.

For vulnerable and soft areas, mix thicker mud to make a stronger mold. Also note that the gallery will become humid as water escapes into the air, creating an invisible domesticated cloud.

The poured wet mud of 5 inches will shrink down to 3 inches. The mud will become hard enough to walk across and hang up watches or place a cloud dome. Limit walking to protect brownie-like crust. Once mud pulls away from the platform wall about a ¼ to ½ inch, lift the 1”X6” form away without hurting or pulling the slab. Now the cracked earth is ready, hovering over the platform, broken and waiting to receive.

Serve the Slabs of Cracked Earth with:

The Earth and Sky Coat

The Cloud Dome

Charles A. Gick’s Recipe for Empty

  1. Locate 20 square feet of wall space
  2. 241 unfilled teaspoons will make 2-1/2 pints of absence. Gallons of restless meditations can gently perch on each cusp. Breathe deeply to give life to each possibility.
  3. Form a 5’ diameter circle filled with 8 concentric rings of emptiness

Charles A. Gick’s Recipe for Full

  1. Locate 20 square feet of wall space
  2. 241 teaspoons of sifted dirt will make 2-1/2 pints of presence

Find a willing gallery director, not afraid of heights or dirt, to stand on a lift, hold cup under each spoon, sprinkle dirt over each until a tiny mountain forms within each cradle, let the dirt granules comfortably settle. Do not apply wind to the fragile dry earth. Hold your breath. The teaspoons cannot hold anymore.

  1. Form a 5’ diameter circle filled with 8 concentric rings of fullness

‘My fathers’ globe knocks on its nave and sings.’
‘This that we tread was, too, your fathers’ land.’
‘But this we tread bears the angelic gangs
Sweet are their fathered faces in their wings.’
‘These are but dreaming men. Breathe, and they fade.’

Excerpt from I fellowed sleep by Dylan Thomas

For recipes and tastes like, how to cage a cloud, how to sew an earth & sky coat and more, visit Charles A. Gick’s Dirt & Flowers: and other things we eat and breathe… at Wabash College.

Recipe developed by Charles A. Gick and written by the Hungryphilosopher

Being Extra and Adolf Loos’ Roast Beef

I am an extra.

I am a non-speaking character in a coffee shop background sipping coffee and staring at my laptop. There are raindrops on the windows, a blade of grass moving in the wind outside, cars moving past on the road, murmuring conversations, a large orange sculpture, a concrete floor, a sneeze, a ding, words, a child’s cry, salt and pepper shakers, mugs, music wafting above the hum of mid-morning conversations, a green shirt, smell of eggs and coffee, fingers on the keyboard, people behind the counter waiting, people cooking lunch, yellow road signs, an itch on the neck, words on the wall, wood tables, metal chairs, stripes and me.

I don’t despair being an extra. Extras in books, movies or television are never credited with names, just actions, like, “shopkeeper” or “crying child.” I am a silent actor in your story, a voiced actor in mine. You can only see my actions, my role as an extra. You don’t see my inner monolog, my struggles, my joys, my worries or my guilt. Recognizing that I am an extra in the world, a silent actor is surprisingly empowering. As you walk by my table where I type, I can trip you or smile, I may not change your story but I can color it with my actions. I don’t have to be the main protagonist. The main character depends on the extra. That is the secret: we are all extras. I came to see myself as an extra and found an extraordinary life. I stopped trying to be named, stopped trying to be the main character, a proper noun.

Philosophy, art, religions all try to address our longing to connect to something larger, more meaningful than us, as disparate individuals. This is an extra attempt, an exercise in noticing the small so that the big comes into focus. We all share the small things, like coffee cups, salt, phones, chairs and walls and the big, like cities, roads, landscapes, clouds, and water. How we focus on either shapes how our individual perspectives live and interact. You are an extra in the stories of almost everyone you meet today. You are also your own, more than. Depending on your outlook you could interpret “being extra” as either, being more, extraordinary or being waste, extraneous. I suspect that each of us, are always both.

I first arrived at this question when reading architect Adolf Loos’ 1908 modernist manifesto Ornament and Crime. All sauces he said were ornamental. He announced, ” I eat roast beef.” From my South Asian perspective beef was ornamental, mostly used as flavoring for curries and only rarely the main component during weddings and celebrations when a sacrifice was offered. Always ritualized and associated with a momentous occasion. Eating beef was considered an extra, a luxury. Never taking up the center of a plate like a steak. By Loos’ definition, I could never be modern. The vivid image of Loos eating a dinner of roast beef to explain the socio-economic value modern architecture stuck in my thoughts and made me wonder how my style of eating might inform my style of living, my philosophy.

How would you complete his sentence: I eat ________________________.

Beef French Dip Sandwich Recipe

Place a slab of beef in a slow cooker. Add water and soy sauce ( a least 1/2 cup) to cover the meat. (Hint: the soy sauce and slow cooking enhance the meat flavor).  Cook for 3-4 hours. Shred meat. Fill crusty rolls with shredded meat. Dip the sandwiches in meat juices. Add sliced onions, pickles, horseradish or whatever sauce or extras you like.

What would Loos make of this recipe? Is the sauce extra or is the meat extra? Doesn’t matter, as long as you are satisfied. Enjoy in moderation. The recipe can easily feed a crowd. Good for buffets and potlucks. If you want to avoid meat and the design debate altogether, just eat a cheese sandwich.

Here is a recipe with exact directions and measurements.