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Saturday, July 14, 2001


had the opportunity today to visit new york's gentrifying lower east side. i go there every 6 weeks to have my hair done. but what's notable about the place from our point of view is an old-time childhood favorite -- the doughnut.

yes, i seized the moment and headed down to the doughnut plant on grand st. between essex and norfolk. getting off at delancy st., i had to walk a block past a dodgy housing project, but then i found it, right next to the kossar's bialy, a long-time outpost for the true classic bialy.

unlike the dreaded krispy kreme doughnut, currently so popular, the doughnut plant treat is made with organic flour, tahitian vanilla, valrhona chocolate, and other high-quality ingredients. i'm not a big doughnut fan: the krispy kreme seems no more than a pouf of over-sweet grease that leaves a funny aftertaste. these doughnuts plant things are completely different.

first, they're large, as big as my hand spread wide, and easily 1-1/2 in. thick. they're half-way between airy and cakey, having a cream-colored interior with medium-sized holes. like most doughnuts, they are slathered in a thick, sticky glaze. no filled or frosted doughnuts here. as i said, i'm no doughnut fan, so they seemed just well . . .like doughnuts should be, no more. but in an age of artificial flavors, commercial extruded oxidized yeast goods that don't actually rise, and krispy kreme evanescence, maybe that's all a doughnut lover yearns for. . . so if you've a passion for doughnuts, recapture your dream at the doughnut plant.

for myself, i tried to eat the doughnut plant object with mindfulness. i wanted to be aware of the quality ingredients, the pure flavors, the texture. but as i chewed it slowly, i couldn't be with it. it didn't arouse my taste curiosity; it bored me. and i put it down halfway through. i couldn't tell that its artisanal qualities had made any difference in the outcome. my husband, however, finished his and i suspect will eat the rest of mine, sneakily, with milk, in the middle of the night. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 5:28 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, July 13, 2001


here's the entirety of karl erb's letter to me. he's a san-francisco based iyengar teacher, with classes at open door yoga. i find it deeply interesting -- a mini-satsang. . . others might find it a shot across the bow. . .

Fortune,

In yoga there is no word for wimp. Yoga is about learning who you are, what are your habits, your strengths, your vanities and limitations and how to bring balance to your life by understanding these things. So you will find the yoga that is right for you.

What do we mean by getting in shape? molding our body to someone else's ideal if limited physical attributes and appearances? Are we getting in shape because we are not happy with "who we are", because we associate our physical body with sense of self? Or are we reshaping our sense of self and self acceptance, self-care and self-love that leads to physical and spiritual health. The reality is a six pack stomach is not healthy for the organs, and not realistic for some body types, why do we want it? Are we serious about self study (svadyaya) which is the path of yoga, or are we wanting a work out to look better?

Have you seen my discussion group on Salon.com? There are a lot of great comments from people there about different types of yoga. What is interesting is that all these apparently different styles of yoga are all from the same place. I personally find the series from Pathabi Jois not as challenging as Iyengar style classes, but they make a good warm up. I do the Vinyasa series, same as the "Ashtanga" series, that I have always done to warm up for the deep work of the practice. I have found after almost 20 years of experience that I cannot go deeply into the postures, the breath, the focus by simply moving from pose to pose, nore by repeating the same series each time, this is what has been true for me. That said, the Vinyasa series used by the Jiva Mukti school (they are a school and not a style of yoga) and the Ashtanga system developed by Pathabi Jois are also a part of the Iyengar system, as are variations on jumpings, the Sun Salutations and so on.

Most of these divisions are recent marketing developments perpetuated in the US to appeal to the American vanity and body image issues. The term Ashtanga has nothing do to with which poses you do or how you do your poses. See my web site pages on the Eight limbs of Yoga "Asta - anga". Mr. Iyengar and Patabhi Jois come from the same traditions, and Mr. Iyengar's system of yoga is also Ashtanga Yoga, as the term is defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Mr. Iyengar never called his style of yoga Iyengar yoga until other people started teaching as inspired by him. His first Book is simply Light on Yoga, an incredibly comprehensive guide to the depth and breath of yoga.

The sytems are wonderfully complimentary. A balanced yoga practice will also include stillness, and maybe the person who made the comment about sitting on the floor attended a class focussing on forward bends or something. Iyengar style teachers tend to have longer training than other systems (at least two years, much anatomy and physiology and philosophy) and tend to focus on precision and attention to refined action in poses. Asana (postures) by definition from the Sutras means "firm, comfortable, stable seat or position" movement by definition is not asana.

Iyengar style classes are often taught to teach you something precise and deep about the poses or even one specific pose so you can then take it into your practice. So for some people it is too much work and focus, or not enough of a physical workout. I find the Ashtanga classes a guided practice, but there is no instruction, or learning how to change my habits, go deeper, refine the movement of energy created by the breath and so on. A fine guided practice, but I don't look to a teacher for that. Americans have modeled the yoga practice to look like their gym workout, aerobics, jazzercise etc...

I would suggest contacting the Iyengar Institue in NY and asking for a list of teachers, they teach all around the city, and trying a few out. Some will teach more rigorous than others, som ewill teach more detail, not all classes will make you sweat and jump around but you will learn something each time if you are open and humble.

Keep me posted. I would be interested to know what you find out you like. And keep going to the Jiva Mukti and "Ashtanga" classes. You will them very complimentary.

Take Care.
Karl.

posted by fortune elkins | 11:29 AM | top | link to this |


Thursday, July 12, 2001


we're on a chocolate roll this week, and i'm not talking about kominiak's famed treat at ecce panis.

instead, remember how just the other day i said that one of the best things about the internet was how little-known high-quality european chocolate makers could come to light?

and here's another case: an artisan chocolate maker, outside of grenoble, france: bonnat. i'd be emailing 'em right now to order, but of course we can't ship chocolate safely in the summer, can we?

let's keep them in mind until september -- then we'll all order together!

to shift gears a bit, on a yoga note: i received a very nice email from ken erb, a san-francisco-based iyengar teacher. he has a new yoga discussion board at salon, which i think i'll drop in on. i'll talk more about ken's email later, because it contains a lot of great food for thought about developing your yoga practice.

posted by fortune elkins | 10:20 AM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, July 11, 2001


it's a little cooler today, but i see no reason to hold out on the chocolate frozen dessert! i've never understood why more people don't make their own -- it's much cheaper, so easy, and can be customized without much effort to exactly what you like. . .

let's start with a basic recipe. naturally, i think valrhona is good for this:

1/2 c (4 oz.) water
2 oz 53-67% chocolate (according to your taste)
1/3 c light corn syrup (or for an interesting variation, try using half corn syrup and half of those flavored syrups you have around the house for your coffee, like the da vinci syrups i mentioned previously)
2 tablespoons liqueur, such as kahlua, framboise, drambuie, whatever you like with chocolate (optional)
1 c (8 oz.) one-percent milk

combine water, chocolate, syrup, and liqueur in a microwave-proof bowl. microwave on high for 1 min. stir. if the chocolate hasn't yet melted, heat for another 30 seconds.

once the mixture is smooth, stir in the milk. pour this mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze. don't have an ice cream maker? then just cover the bowl, pop it in your freezer and freeze for 3-4 hours. take a fork and scrape the mixture all the way through until you have a big bowl of nicely scraped icy crystals. freeze for another 4 hours and scrape again if you like. or if you're truly lazy, quickly break the frozen mixture into blocks, pop it in the blender, give it a few quick pulses, and then freeze it again. the aim here is a smooth, pleasant mouthfeel -- a little grainy, not too grainy.

if you use the liqueur you should note that the mixture will not freeze as hard as without it, due to the lower freezing point of alcohol.

posted by fortune elkins | 10:28 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, July 10, 2001


my server's been up and down all day today. . .let's hope it stays up while i write this short piece!

recently i've been looking for a good solid discussion group on yoga. and after going to a great many sites, i've just decided one doesn't exist.

there's nothing of value on usenet, as far as i can find; the yahoo clubs/egroups/onelist services feature many disjointed small groups whose level of discussion, sadly, doesn't seem too much above that of classic usenet. yahoo does feature a large group on ashtanga, but the quality is lacking, imho.

maybe on the famed discussion site the well? i'm not a member but when i did a search for yoga on their community page, i came up with nothing. . .please charming readers, if you know a listserv, message board, bulletin board, chat group, instant message channel -- any high-quality yoga discussion area, please email me so i can feature it/them here!

posted by fortune elkins | 7:57 PM | top | link to this |


Monday, July 09, 2001


today's definitely the 3 Hs -- hot, hazy, humid. this means it's definitely not a day to ship chocolate. consume all your chocolate immediately, on the spot, in great mouthfuls. . .

i think an underappreciated source of chocolate here in new york is black hound. they work out of an unprepossessing storefront on second ave. in the east village. but don't be fooled by looks, or by the fact that often when you go by the place it looks locked, empty, lost.

because deep inside, behind the vitrine, are some of the most amazing bittersweet chocolate truffles in the nation. at about $46 a pound, they top even the pricey sweets of jacque torres. more affordable perhaps are their chocolate baskets, seen copied at balducci's and dean & deluca.

wonderful 6-inch tall dark chocolate baskets, carefully drizzled around a form to have a naturalistic wicker texture. these narrow-mouthed delights are then filled with sponge cake, touched with rum, pastry cream or whipped cream, and topped with delicious fresh berries and fruit. at about $7 each, they are a wonderful introduction to the artistry of black hound.

posted by fortune elkins | 9:00 AM | top | link to this |


Sunday, July 08, 2001


after a tough practice, i washed my new "transformer" mat again. . .to discover that when it had dried this evening, it was soft, suppple, and much more sticky!

since traction is the main thing i want in a yoga mat, i'm growing to like this mat more and more. according to erik from bheka it will become a little softer yet -- i'm only half-way through the breaking in period.

and finally, i've washed the yoga-tard twice now -- it didn't fade or shrink. so once again, i'm thrilled with my bheka yoga gear. plus the bheka gang are just ultra-sweet people!

speaking of breaking in, i think my rancilio silvia espresso machine has broken in as well. either my barista milk steaming skills are finally kicking in, or silvia's now hit her stride!

what other wonders will tomorrow bring? the weather's supposed to turn hot again. . .does this call for chocolate gelato? we'll see!

posted by fortune elkins | 8:32 PM | top | link to this |

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