Archive for October 2015 | Monthly archive page

kermit the frog

In today’s post, we derive our inspiration from an often overlooked passage of the classic Muppet melody, “The Rainbow Connection,” a song that unquestionably and unapologetically takes up a dialog with the wisdom of the Other Side.

 

“Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?

I’ve heard them calling my name

Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?

The voice might be one and the same

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it

It’s something that I’m supposed to be”

-Kermit the Frog

 

The role of frogs and toads in folklore and fairy tales is widespread and well-documented throughout the world. As a window into the collective unconscious, fairy tales serve as a kind of secular scripture, and it is no exaggeration to say that the frog takes a preeminent place in this light-hearted yet deep-seeking genre. The Brothers Grimm’s “Frog Prince” is among the best known stories in their comprehensive anthology, and one that has equivalents from dozens of other cultures across Europe and Asia where the motif is repeated and revised into countless variations.

One need not look hard to find the traits that give frogs a unique, if not magical, status among the animal kingdom. Their very life cycle is a wonder to behold, as they mature from aquatic tadpole into amphibious adult. Water itself is an elemental symbol loaded with meaning. As a source of life, water can mean the mother; as a taker of lives, it can equally denote death. It can be clear and cleansing or dark and murky, smooth and reflective or rough and choppy, but always deep and mysterious, like the cloudy depths of the subconscious.

In the variety of frog prince fairy tales, the creature’s capacity for transformation is explicit, but the frog’s greatest fascination comes from its dual nature, as much at home in the water as it is on land. It’s a rare being who has knowledge of both elements and can move effortlessly between the two. Archetypally speaking, this amphibious nature suggests a preternatural ability to move between realms of the conscious and the unconscious, or mythically speaking, between the land of the living and the land of the dead, heaven and earth.

Such characters are of chief importance in the mythological pantheon, generally referred to as tricksters or psychopomps, the best known in western culture being Hermes (or Mercury). In addition to his function as divine messenger, Hermes is known as a “guardian and guide,” and “bringer of good luck.” (Iliad) Besides stirring up mischief, deities of this sort serve as the connective tissue between the sacred and the mundane, holding the communicative key that unlocks the secrets of the spirit world. The frog’s cyclical lifespan and amphibious lifestyle have also earned it a mercurial reputation in the Far East, where Taoist tradition associates these pond squatters with healing and immortality, and regards them as spirits recovered from the deep “well of truth.” (It is noteworthy that Hermes carries the staff of Caduceus, whose twin snakes have come to symbolize medicine, making the link between Greco-Roman trickster and Oriental toad even less remote.)

Certainly Kermit’s keen intuition and ardent empathy support the frog’s legendary distinction as intermediary to the stars. When he speaks of voices who call when you’re half asleep, he is recalling the language of dreams, the language our unconscious uses to address our waking mind. It is a language scarcely intelligible without the aid of a skilled amphibian to perform the translation. But a creature like Kermit has the rare ability to see through what ordinary beings would consider an opaque boundary, and to guide us across the barrier like Charon over the river Styx.

The text further invokes the voyage of Odysseus, whose crew of sailors are lured by the sweet song of Sirens, one more obstacle on his epic journey back to Ithica and his long lost Penelope. The sweet voices in the case of our text, however, are not a distracting temptation, but the true calling. So beware, Kermit warns us, listen closely and discern, for the truth can all too easily be mistaken for the distraction, and vice versa. Listen carefully to the inner voice, have trust in your self, and you will know not to ignore it.

“And some day you’ll find it, the rainbow connection.” When the light of higher truth penetrates our temporal reality, the deep will suffuse the shallow, and a ray of light will spread out into every color of the rainbow. The imagery points now to Mount Ararat, where Noah has survived the flood and docks his trusty ark on the hilltop. After delivering the devastating, nearly apocalyptic deluge, God promises never again to enact such destruction, and seals his promise with a rainbow, to signify the “everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16)

After showing the way as translator and spirit guide, the prophet Kermit also guarantees his words with a rainbow. Like the Noahic covenant of the Old Testament, the Rainbow Connection seals the pact between the earthly and the divine, the sacred and the profane. The voices have entered from another realm, and with highest thanks and praise to Kermit, we are blessed with “ears that hear and eyes that see.” (Proverbs 20:12)

Stay tuned next week when excessive toad licking leads me to do my best impersonation of a bump on a log.

 

Sauerkraut

Fermentation is on the rebound! And considering it is probably the oldest form of food and beverage preparation known to mankind, this resurgence is a long time coming. That’s right. Even before the scintillating discovery of fire, our bumbling ancestors had probably already found ways of storing their roots, grains and vegetables that made them more nutritious and nutritious. Not to mention mood-enhancing, of course, because beer and wine are both products of fermentation that our species has enjoyed since time immemorial.

You know it in your gut, and the science confirms it: the benefits of naturally fermented probiotic bacteria are multitudinous. Whether you’re aiming to promote better digestion, trying to alleviate anxiety and depression, or simply looking for a good buzz, there’s a fermented culture to meet your needs.

Amidst this flurry of fermentation, legions of would-be mad scientists are now brewing all manner of probiotic cultures in their own homes, filling cupboards, pantries and laundry rooms with jars of pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, ginger ale, etc, ad nauseam.  It’s an amazing process, one that borders on dark sorcery, shrouded in mystery and enchantment, but we’d like to take this opportunity to pull back the veil and reveal for you the scientific fundamentals of fermentation. (For the sake of brevity, we’re just going to talk about sauerkraut, with the understanding that most forms of fermentation abide by the same principles.)

The Science of Sauerkraut

So it all starts with salt and cabbage; the ingredients could not be simpler. And the result is a delectably savory side dish, sour, but not salty. So how does it work?

The secret fuel driving the engine of sauerkraut fermentation is a little something called Lactobacilli, which is just a fancy way of saying, lactic acid-producing bacteria. The lactic acid-producing bacteria come in a few varieties, but generally they are anaerobic, which means that they thrive in an oxygen-free environment. Sauerkraut actually contains both Lactobacilli and Leuconostoc, which are technically microaerophiles, meaning they need very little oxygen, which they find in ample supply in the top half inch or so of your well sealed jar or crock pot.

The first stage of fermentation begins with Leuconostoc mesenteroides, as it consumes that bit of oxygen and replaces it with (or converts it into) carbon dioxide. You can observe this process by watching the bubbles rise and fizz in your jar. With the oxygen depleted, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus cucumeris now kick into high gear, raising the acidity ever higher (or bringing the pH ever lower).

As this happens, the bacteria is essentially living off of the salt in your recipe and the sugar occurring naturally in your cabbage. At the same time, the increased acidity creates an environment hostile to unfriendly bacteria and fungi. Eventually, about the time the acidity reaches 2-2.5%, the sauerkraut will achieve a sufficiently sour flavor and stop fizzing. And easy as that, it’s ready to eat.

This is basically the same process used to turn cucumbers into pickles, or do most any other type of pickling. But there of many types of fermentation involving all sorts of yummy bacteria varieties. Experiment with care, and may the fruits of your methodology be always delicious!

 

 

Panda Poo Paper

Here at Bambu Batu, we are determined to build a better, more sustainable world from the bottom up. Of course, we also enjoy our fair share of wise cracks! But our Panda Poo Paper products are no joke. We looked high and low, extending our search to the ends of the earth, to source this incredible tree-free alternative to your ordinary, timber-based stationery.

Straight from the belly of the beast, these unique journals and note pads are truly fashioned from 100% Panda Bear excrement. Naturally, your gut reaction may be one of distaste. But before you turn up your nose in high-and-mighty disapprobation, let us consider the diet of the venerable Chinese mascot.

Like us, the Pandas have a great fondness for bamboo. You might even call it an obsession, for in fact, these exquisite creatures sustain themselves entirely on this hardy grass. Only extremely rarely do they consume anything else.* And what goes in, must come out, so what we’re really talking about is simply bamboo paper, processed nature’s way, by the highly specialized enzymes found only in the digestive tract of the Panda. Alimentary, my dear Watson!

That’s right, it’s more than just a political statement, it’s an environmental movement. So hurry down to Bambu Batu and get yourself a piece of the action, because it’s hardly any exaggeration to say that this shit is flying out of here!

(*NOTE: the variety of bamboo preferred by the bears is not the same variety as that used in making bamboo products like flooring, clothing, cutting boards etc., so these products pose no threat to the endangered panda’s livelihood.)

Art After Dark in SLO

This week marks the fifth anniversary of what has become something of an institution here at Bambu Batu. Art After Dark in SLO takes place on the first Friday of each month, and shopkeepers and art-lovers alike have come to look forward to this monthly opportunity for mingling and moseying around San Luis Obispo’s charming, historic downtown district.

From 6-9 pm, most participating venues will host art openings that showcase artwork ranging from local oil paintings to international textiles, and everything in between. Small but cultured, San Luis Obispo boasts a flourishing community of artists, including world-class plein air specialists, award-winning jewelers, a growing cottage industry of crafters, an active and talented cadre of painters both abstract and representational, and all manner of sculptors and ceramicists. Alongside these diverse and abundant exhibits—around thirty each month—most galleries offer something else for which our region has earned an impressive reputation, glasses of fine wine.

In our unending effort to distinguish ourselves, Bambu Batu takes a unique approach to Art After Dark in SLO. As our wall space is already well filled with lovely art, scrolls and bamboo merchandise, we generally try to focus on other forms of art. Each month we feature a different line-up of local musical artists, from gypsy jazz ensembles to ambient DJs to singer-songwriter soloists (including Anthony Roselli in the photo above). Tonight (Oct. 2, 2015), our special guests include and handful of members from SLO county’s notorious bluegrass sensation, the Mother Cornshuckers.

As a spiritually oriented shop, we also take Art After Dark as an opportunity to showcase the metaphysical arts. Harry Farmer, the impresario of astrology on the Central Coast, participates on a semi regular basis, offering his most insightful readings of your planets based on decades of study and experience. Mary-Aiñe Curtis also offers her intuitive talents on alternating months, using Angel Cards to exercise her sensitive energy reading skills.

Finally, given this region’s saturation of grapes and wineries, we opt to offer another much loved but under-represented exemplar of the fermented arts: craft beer. Typically we pour suds from either Creekside Brewing Company (brewed and based directly across the street) or Figueroa Mountain Brewing (based in Santa Ynez and brewed in nearby Arroyo Grande). Beer and wine lovers alike appear to appreciate our bold efforts to diversify the palate.

Bambu Batu is proud to be a part of Art After Dark in SLO, and whenever possible we also include arts and crafts from local artisans, to brighten up the evening’s fare and give budding artists a chance to gain some exposure and display their works. And at last we can rejoice, that Bubblegum Alley is no longer San Luis Obispo’s greatest contribution to culture!

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