A watched pot (turtle nest) boils in Oak Island

A volunteer waved us left as we approached the tiny runway shaped to help guide baby turtles towards the sea. During our evening walks we noticed these small runways lined with green edges, centers brushed smooth carefully made ready for turtle nests incubating in the warm July sand past 50 days.  

“They’re coming. Please walk over and behind.” The excitement of new life. A small group of people composed of “nest mothers”, volunteers, and the vacationing and local curious was hovering over the patch of sand with a square grate the size of a doormat. The patch had a small crack where the sand caved in the size of my hand. This was an indication of restlessness, cracking, and movement below. The crowd of children, adults and more volunteers grew on either side of the runway as the sun began to set. We all waited. And waited. So did the turtles. They were waiting for the sand to cool as a sign of the waning sun that would make it easier to hide from predators. As the sun dipped, they rose and boiled like small dark shadows rising out of the growing hole in the ground.

Am I seeing this? The instinct is to shed light on this miracle. But light is exactly what they are avoiding. Light disorients budding life. They turn away and go in the wrong direction. “They have been listening to the ocean this whole time, they know to move towards the sound,” a volunteer explained while encouraging us to use our “inside voices” so the turtles can hear the ocean calling them. Or is it the magnetic pull? The ocean is like the mother’s heartbeat for a human baby emerging out of a uterine water sac. The baby moves towards the light, and a turtle also moves towards the moonlight on the water. Lights on the beach confuse them, they move in the wrong direction away from the water and into the grips of a predator. The beauty of turtles rising together. This I’ve learned affords survival of the species, many are sacrificed to predators so a few can live and serve a larger commitment to life. We humans have so much to learn from these tiny dark, squiggly, directed shadows. We can stand by, watch, guide, and mostly care enough to stay out of their way and keep other humans from staying out of their way…waving them to go around or stop shining light on the fragile eyes looking for the ocean. It is a practice of humble awe. A gentle suggestion that perhaps we are not the center of all life.

Sea turtles are a protected species. The Oak Island Turtle Protection Program is on a mission to monitor and protect the sea turtles and to foster community-based conservation…basically to wave us away from trampling the turtles and to welcome us to come close without shining light and with hushed reverence. In the three weeks of living here sitting on the sand alongside the turtle runway was the first and most satisfying sense of community I have experienced. No power, monetization, or exclusivity. The simplicity of a random community of curious humans channeling and watching small shadows scurry to glistening dark waves. It was magnificent.

The turtles are protected from industrial pollution and natural predators. We are among that list of natural predators. In my efforts to learn about the region I now call home, I researched a few cookbooks available at the local library. One of the cookbooks entitled “The Beachcomber’s Handbook of Seafood Cookery” by Hugh Zachary (1969) shares a Sea Turtle Stew recipe. The author prefaces the recipe with a story about gathering eggs from the beach, a culture of turtle hunting, followed by a plea.  He writes,

“I saw a couple of huge loggerheads that had been killed, wantonly killed, on Long Beach, not for their meat, but just for the fun of killing something so large, apparently. I like turtles. I like turtles better than I like some people – namely people who would kill a big loggerhead just for the experience. Loggerhead turtles are a vanishing breed. It’s fun to go turtle hunting during a full moon in a warm month on a nice night. It’s an interesting experience to find a big turtle on her nest and watch her lay eggs and cover them with her awkward, instinctive, and utterly laborious movements. My sympathy goes out to the big beast who comes out of her natural element to try to fight the odds against the survival of her species.

Let’s don’t eat loggerheads.”

Zachary, Hugh. (1969) The Beachcomber’s Handbook of Seafood Cookery. Kingsport Press: Tennessee.

On the margins of this recipe page, the library added a note about the law protecting sea turtles.

from the Beachcomber’s Handbook of Seafood Cookery (1969)

We humans can be both predators and conservators, vicious and curious. Sitting there watching the baby turtles a representation of life itself flapping, flailing, scurrying, blind and confused, I was reminded of the choice. As food curious as I am, I am okay letting turtle meat remain a mystery. I don’t know what my line is for eating other living beings, is it endangered animals? Or like Mr. Rogers who avoided anything that had a mother? Eat flesh out of necessity or politeness? Practice a generally plant-based diet? I don’t have my own answer, let alone have one for you. All I can say is that I hope to be aware of and own my choices today. Tomorrow may be different. Last evening it felt good to be among a community of humans who chose to stand together and aside watching life emerge out of a dark small crack in the earth.

Thank you baby turtles. I hope you live a long life and return to this beach as a place of safety and care. We’ll wait for you.

For lunch today, cereal with frozen blueberries sounds refreshing.

Wishing you thoughtful eating,

hungryphil

Eating Through Oak Island and Southport, NC – Part 1

In preparation and eager anticipation for our move to Oak Island, North Carolina, my husband and I have been visiting the island, both on and off-season. The past week, mid-march was our third visit. The first was in last June when we fell in love with the place and bought our home. The second visit, in October, was the first time on the island as invested future residents. During these three visits, we have enjoyed a wide spectrum of tasty treats and meals.

The first lesson about Oak Island is that looks can be pleasantly and surprisingly deceiving. The unassuming appearance of a restaurant may not reflect the care and craft in the food. Like the Tardis, and my little house, things are more impressive on the inside. No unnecessary shiny, glitz, and glamor competing with the majesty of the beach, sky, and sea creatures. Oak Island accepts the beach as the main event and priority. And, it is worth the adoration.

The second lesson, for me, was that while options may be limited, most restaurants are kindly willing to explain the dish and hold an ingredient if needed. When in doubt, just ask. I did not miss pre-prepared fast food at all.

The third lesson, related to the second, is that there are so many temptations for someone watching sugar and dairy. Doughnuts, pies, cakes, and ice cream everywhere! Can’t say I mind. The honey butter with cornbread…decadent. This is a place of summer simplicity, celebration, and joy. Enjoy the cake! Especially the coconut-key-lime piecaken from Swains. Yum!

This quick post is limited to our last visit and stomach space. It also does not include the many very worthy restaurants closed for the season. Very much looking forward to continuing on this North Carolina food adventure.

So here is my incomplete list for now…with more to come…

Tranquil Harbour Restaurant – Oak Island
Cafe Koa – Southport
The Pepper Pot – Southport
The Saucy Southerner – Southport
Swains Seafood and Cut Restaurant – Oak Island
Moore Street Oyster Bar – Southport
Lil and John’s Sweet Treats – Oak Island
Southport Gourmet and Sushi – Southport
Inergy Market – Oak Island

Food Poem – Recipe for a Salad by Sydney Smith

To make this condiment, your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two hard-boiled eggs;
Two boiled potatoes, passed through kitchen-sieve,
Smoothness and softness to the salad give;
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, half-suspected, animate the whole.
Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,
Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault,
To add a double quantity of salt.
And, lastly, o'er the flavored compound toss
A magic soup-spoon of anchovy sauce.
Oh, green and glorious! Oh, herbaceous treat!
'T would tempt the dying anchorite to eat;
Back to the world he'd turn his fleeting soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl!
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
Fate can not harm me, I have dined to-day!

“Recipe for a Salad” by Sydney Smith. from the Writer’s Almanac 2/3/2022

I love the part about the onion, lurking in the bottom, animating the whole 🙂

May you be serenely full,

Hungryphil

Food Poem – Everybody Made Soups by Lisa Coffman

After it all, the events of the holidays,
the dinner tables passing like great ships,
everybody made soups for a while.
Cooked and cooked until the broth kept
the story of the onion, the weeping meat.
It was over, the year was spent, the new one
had yet to make its demands on us,
each day lay in the dark like a folded letter.
Then out of it all we made one final thing
out of the bounty that had not always filled us,
out of the ruined cathedral carcass of the turkey,
the limp celery chopped back into plenty,
the fish head, the spine. Out of the rejected,
the passed over, never the object of love.
It was as if all the pageantry had been for this:
the quiet after, the simmered light,
the soothing shapes our mouths made as we tasted.

Lisa Coffman, “Everybody Made Soups” from Less Obvious Gods. From Writer’s Almanac 2/2/2022

Wishing you warm “quiet afters” on this snowy day in the Midwest,

Hungryphil

Food Poem – In the Produce Aisle by Kirsten Dierking

In the vivid red
of the fresh berries,
in the pebbled skin
of an emerald lime,
in the bright colors
of things made
to be transitory,
you see the same
loveliness
you find in your own
delicate flesh,
the lines fanned
around your eyes
charming like
the burnish
of plums,
your life like
all the other
fragile organics,
your soft hand
hovering over
the succulent apple,
you reach for it,
already transforming.

Kirsten Dierking, “In the Produce Aisle”  from Northern Oracle. © 2007 Kirsten Dierking published by Spout Press. From 1/5/2022 The Writer’s Almanac

Food Poem: Living in the Body by Joyce Sutphen

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.

Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly—better to leave it as it is.

Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.

Joyce Sutphen, “Living in the Body” from Coming Back to the Body from the Writer’s Almanac, 9/20/21

I eat a slice of chocolate cake every year to celebrate a loss I’ve had. This poem reminds me of living and of celebrating despite and because of loss. Some years I bake a cake to freeze slices to enjoy throughout the year. A way to keep both the sadness and the gratitude in my body.

The body is everything. Let’s promise to be in ours today.

With warmth,

Hungryphil

P.S. Next time I bake a cake for the occasion, I’ll have to take a picture to share. For now, I rely on stock photos online.

Food Poem: Breakfast by Joyce Sutphen

My father taught me how to eat breakfast
those mornings when it was my turn to help
him milk the cows. I loved rising up from

the darkness and coming quietly down
the stairs while the others were still sleeping.
I’d take a bowl from the cupboard, a spoon

from the drawer, and slip into the pantry
where he was already eating spoonfuls
of cornflakes covered with mashed strawberries

from our own strawberry fields forever.
Didn’t talk much—except to mention how
good the strawberries tasted or the way

those clouds hung over the hay barn roof.
Simple—that’s how we started up the day.


Joyce Sutphen, “Breakfast” from First Words, Red Dragonfly. from the Writer’s Almanac, Monday 9/13/21

A simple start to the day with a loved one is so comforting. What is your favorite morning ritual?

Food Poem – Death Again by Jim Harrison

Let’s not get romantic or dismal about death.
Indeed it’s our most unique act along with birth.
We must think of it as cooking breakfast,
it’s that ordinary. Break two eggs into a bowl
or break a bowl into two eggs. Slip into a coffin
after the fluids have been drained, or better yet,
slide into the fire. Of course it’s a little hard
to accept your last kiss, your last drink,
your last meal about which the condemned
can be quite particular as if there could be
a cheeseburger sent by God. A few lovers
sweep by the inner eye, but it’s mostly a placid
lake at dawn, mist rising, a solitary loon
call, and staring into the still, opaque water.
We’ll know as children again all that we are
destined to know, that the water is cold
and deep, and the sun penetrates only so far.

Jim Harrison, “Death Again” from Jim Harrison: The Essential Poems. from the Writer’s Almanac Podcast, August 14th, 2019

Cooking is my coping skill

Like you, Hungyphil has many dimensions and manifestations: Wobblyogi and now Angstytherapist. This blog started as a way to retain and share food experiences, it grew to add yoga and mindfulness, and now counseling and therapy. Like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Hungry Philosopher is munching away at life one leaf at a time. Not sure if a butterfly will ever emerge through these efforts but it sure is fun to try.

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So, how am I going to combine food, mindfulness, AND therapy? Here is my first attempt.

The last four months I did my internship at a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for kids between the ages of 8-18. I’ll be sharing more from that experience in the coming weeks. All sorts of sad and hurt ranging from homicidal thoughts, incest, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, anxiety,  depression and trauma brought these kids to the programs. One of the main tasks of the programs were helping them develop distress tolerance and coping skills that could would work for them individually.

Here is a sample list of coping skills from https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/100-Free-Coping-Strategies-2955800:

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Number 59 is Blog. I also use eating, cooking, reading, writing, yoga, meditation and drawing. Coping skills sounds very much like general and generic things I just like to do.

They are.

So how can things I just like to do help me ease anxiety and depression?

Its a simple principle.

When life tastes bitter, add activities, tastes, sights and smells that you love. Change the recipe.

Easier said than done. Let’s talk more about it. For now,

What are your coping skills?

Wishing you self-aware ease,

Angstytherapist-wobblyogi-hungryphil

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,

Hungryphil