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Friday, June 01, 2001


archives and such should be back on line. thanks for your patience while i worked on this. today i'd like to talk about coffee grinders. and since the weather remains cool, i think this will be the weekend to make a modern version of the pleasant italian chocolate candy called torrone. if the weather holds, look for the recipe. . .

many coffee fans feel that the rancilio grinder known as rocky is the best home coffee grinder on the market today. many others like grinders made by solis, etc. i myself received as a birthday gift the much-maligned saeco 2002. several experts claim the saeco cannot grind finely enough to produce good espresso in quality machines, such as my rancilio silvia. it certainly is not the quietest grinder, and it does tend to spit coffee powder everywhere while it grinds.

to some extent, having a quality grinder is just as important as a good machine for great espresso. if the coffee isn't ground correctly, not even using the best beans and most advanced espresso machine will allow you to make wonderful coffee. all the higher-quality coffee grinders use burrs, either conical or parallel. some advanced machines use a both in combination. the saeco i have is a parallel burr grinder.

for some time i have been searching for the correct setting on my saeco to use for espresso. when i had my old krups machine, nothing worked for me, and since i got my silvia last april, i have had all my coffee professionally ground in small quantities. i wanted to eliminate grind as a factor while i perfected my espresso making skills on the new silvia. but now i'm thinking i want to try to find if in fact the saeco will do for the silvia.

here's my plan: i'm going to order another pound of firenze from caffe d'arte and then try to find a setting on the grinder that will give me a nice 3/4 to 1 oz. shot when the water has been allowed to run through the coffee for 25 to 30 seconds. finding this setting is called "dialing in" the grinder. the saeco has 15 numbered settings, with marks at the halfway point, giving you 30 "clicks" from which to choose a grind.

i think i'll start by trying to grind some of the coffee i currently have at 2 and 2-1/2 and see how it goes from there. you'll hear the results tomorrow! coffee and torrone. . .umm, what an excellent afternoon snack. tomorrow could be an excellent day!

posted by fortune elkins | 10:15 AM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, May 30, 2001


recently i took a yoga class where the teacher asked, "who here is a beginner?" since i have only been doing yoga for a year, i definitely consider myself a beginner and i take beginner classes along the mixed level ones every week. today i received an email from someone asking about starting yoga and they asked how hard it was to be a beginner.

how hard is it to be a beginner? i find that a very thought-provoking question. because of course in many ways you are always beginning with your yoga, no matter how many fancy poses you have learned to do. this seems so obvious it must be a truism, right? what i like most about being a beginner is the enthusiasm of it; when yoga seems really exciting and important. that's a lovely feeling certainly worth nurturing, i think. wasn't it e.m. forster who said, "enthusiasm is beautiful?" but enthusiasm is a feeling worn lightly; it doesn't seem to weigh you down. so being a beginner is easy and fun, in my view. it's not hard at all!

sometimes it seems to me that people consider themselves beginners if they don't have a "serious" yoga practice. i'm not sure i know what that is -- i've met yoga teachers, people who've been teaching for several years and who spend hours a day involved in with yoga, but in all honesty and with all due respect, after taking class with them, it seemed like they could just as well been teaching junior-high gym or ballroom dancing. they had no enthusiasm or sense of discovery. do they have a "serious" yoga practice? i might say not, that the curious person who shows up once a week for a month just to try yoga out might actually be more "serious" in an important way!

this reminds me of something erich schiffmann recently wrote:

"the thing I think is especially fabulous about Yoga is that it takes one beyond the fitness-only mentality. the more Yoga you do, the more you experientially understand that it's about the development of religious feeling. religion, remember, means re-linking, coming into the realization of our inseparable oneness with the Infinite. getting fit is more about realizing where/how you fit in, how you are linked with the Oneness, than how long you can stand on your head or how far over you can bend or how physically well-conditioned you are."

in this sense, the open-minded beginner is definitely more serious than you might at first think! even if someone only did yoga five times with an open mind and then went on to experiment with six weeks of charismatic rolfing or whatever, i would say they were serious. an interesting statement from ramakrishna paramahamsa seems a propos here:

"yes, one should courageously follow many sacred paths - practicing every authentic religious discipline, recieving every powerful initiation, enjoying every mystical attitude. yet how few are ready to plunge into the ocean of supreme knowledge.they learn a few phrases and immediatley begin delivering lectures. why? because Mother's Delight is in continuing the game. she does not liberate all the players. the playful Goddess instructs the human mind: 'go forth and experience every possible aspect of manifestation.' can one blame the mind? awareness can be disentangled from conventional, habitual experience only when the Wisdom Mother, through Her ineffable Grace and Attraction, inspires the mind to investigate its own intrinsic nature, which is Her reality."

although ramakrishna's way of life and his experiences seem extreme to most of us nowadays, i don't think this dilutes the wisdom of his insight above, do you?

posted by fortune elkins | 10:36 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, May 29, 2001


hope you enjoyed your long holiday memorial weekend! we're still experiencing some server problems -- for example, with the archives -- that i hope address shortly. thanks for your patience. . .i certainly spent a moment remembering the veteran in my family, homer kurtz, my great-uncle, who went "over there" in the first world war.

he fell in love with a french mam'selle, but she wouldn't come back to the farm in kansas with him. . .whereupon it was said that when he returned home, he threw himself from the hayloft.

on a brighter note, although dying for love has a certain romantic quality, i spent the holiday making pizza. several people have made me aware that fresh mozzarella can be hard to come by in some places, although it is plentiful in italian brownstone brooklyn. this is certainly annoying! so herewith, i offer links to a nice mozzarella recipe.

because this great recipe offers many pictures, i won't post it here. let me just say that it's easier to make than it sounds and all it really requires are supermarket supplies. . .some yogurt, buttermilk, rennet, a very large bowl, and a cooking thermometer. many people find they make a better quality cheese by crushing up a normal vitamin c pill and adding it to the milk as well! the vitamin c helps the cheese form nicely and gives it an improved texture, just as vitamin c also helps the yeast in bread. interesting, hmm?

the recipe takes about 30 minutes of real work over the course of two or three days. the rest is all waiting. without any more delay -- Dr. Fankhauser's American Mozzarella.

note that you can use a microwave to heat the water at various times. here's a nice recipe for microwave mozzarella. while making your own fresh mozzarella costs about as much as buying it -- here in new york it's often as much as $6 a pound -- you do get the absolute freshest product. and by using different kinds of milks, salting it longer, etc. you can make a mozzarella exactly to your tastes. since it's easy to make in larger batches if you have room, you can also make a lot and give it to friends! it's a tremendous thing that everyone appreciates.

posted by fortune elkins | 9:49 AM | top | link to this |

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