With a half a cup of rice you can feed yourself for two days.  That’s the idea behind congee.  It’s food.  You can live on it and with a little bit of vegetable or meat on top it’s delicious and will nourish and sustain you.

Recently two Sri Lanken scientists discovered that if you cook rice with certain fats such as coconut oil and then refrigerate the rice for twelve hours, the chemical composition of the rice will change.  The high glycemic index of the rice will change from a digestible starch into an indigestible, resistant starch.  This means that the carbohydrates will not change so easily into glucose.  When we have more glucose than we need it turns into fat.  A resistant starch means that the rice has become a prebiotic, which creates a healthy digestive system and aids in the absorption of nutrition.

Rice will feed you.  There are dozens of different types of rice, you can make congee from any of them.  I use Arborio rice here.


Arborio Rice- 1/2 c.

Chicken Stock- 2 1/2 c.

Water- 2 c.

Coconut Oil- 2 tsp.

Coarse Salt- 1/2 tsp.

Pepper- to taste


Rinse the rice in several changes of water, to remove excess talc.

Bring the stock and water to a boil, add the coconut oil and stir till it melts.  Add the rice, salt and pepper and stir once or shake the pan gently to settle the rice.  Turn the heat to very low, cover the pot and simmer for one hour and fifteen minutes.

When the rice is done cooking, turn the heat off and let the rice sit for another ten minutes.  Uncover and put half of the congee in a dish.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Eat the congee as is or top with some roast pork and kimchee or smoked fish with toasted sesame seeds or sliced chicken, duck or fish with sesame oil, soy sauce and steamed vegetable.

The rest of the congee should be refrigerated till the next day for breakfast, lunch or dinner, adding up to another 1/2 cup of liquid when reheating.  Congee is excellent with a few tablespoons of cream and a touch of cinnamon for breakfast. Serves 1.

Recipe by Barbara Franke



Walker Street Boogie Woogie

Thirty six years ago I moved into a loft on Walker Street.  My first day here I met my neighbor Mario in the hallway.  I said Hi.  He shook his fists in the air and yelled – you can’t live here, there’s a rent strike going on!  And I said – what’s a rent strike?  He looked at me and said – you don’t know?  And I said – no.  Then he said – you’d better come upstairs and I’ll tell you all about it.  So I did of course, I went up that evening.  Mario’s wife was easily the prettiest girl in any room she was in, two kids and two dogs.  Every night Mario took the dogs out and came home with firewood.  They had been on strike for years.  The rent strike signs had come down from the windows.  There weren’t any more banners stretched across the road.  We didn’t join the strike.  We said we have to fight our own battles, this one was theirs.  The landlord had not betrayed us.  And we could give aid and comfort to our friends, allies and neighbors.  We could get keys for everyone when the locks were changed.  The landlord had to keep the lights on in the hallways.  Little conveniences.

It wasn’t just this building.  There were others down the block and across the street.  The fight was defined by the landlord who owned them all.  The tenants went through every court in the land, some of them twice, defining what was right and who had the rights.  Mario had stars on his beret, one for every court I think.  In the end they took everything from the strikers and gave them nothing.  Except a loft law.

The landlord kept all the back rents and he evicted every rent striking tenant.  Mario was last to leave and he had to be removed by force of arms.  The landlord couldn’t evict us.  That afternoon, he called us and said we had two weeks to leave…  We said no…  We only went to a few courts, but it was maybe another ten year fight and we were alone for a lot of that time in a very big building.  But we’re still here.  My husband still works in his studio, every day, all these years.

A neighbor showed me a picture of Mario a year or so ago.  He looked happy.  Healed.  He’s still painting.  He was posing with a motorcycle, a really nice one.  Someone tell this story.  Make a movie – Rent Strike!  Maybe Ben Affleck or Jennifer Lopez.  Or Pete Hammell.  People who have touched this ground and felt the story in the air where it still lingers.

Thirty six years ago, Chinese New Year.  Lunar year.  The streets were red with passion, art, money and justice.  The lion fought the bear.

Essay by Barbara Franke

Why I Believe in Santa Claus

Sometimes I think I’m the only one who believes in Santa Claus.

Sometimes I  think this is because we’ve lately made a children’s story of him, instead of remembering the real history of St Nicholas.  So I would like to tell you a story.  It’s one that I’ve told to little children at Christmastime, when I’m reading stories about Santa Claus to them.  I tell them that Santa Claus really was a real person, that he lived a long time ago, more than 1,500 years ago and that if they go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City they can actually see two paintings of him.  Oftentimes the children are amazed to hear this and they wonder how he can deliver presents to everyone, especially to them and all the other good children, all in one night.  I explain to them that this is what was so special about him, that he was a man with a very good heart and he tried to do what was right, according to the Christian principals he lived by.

Basically what he said to all of the people who would listen, I tell the children, is that in honor of the Christian holiday of Christmas, all of the people who have been blessed with great good fortune should share what they have with those who have much less and in that way everyone would have much more, because the rich people could show how much they appreciate their good fortune and the poor would not go hungry.  He said this was the right thing to do, and he did this in his own life.  And when he died they proclaimed him a saint, a very great honor, and they made the day to celebrate his being a saint at Christmas time.  And in that way everyone would always remember their Christian principals- to live a good life and to give to the poor.  And here it is- 1,500 years later and we still remember.  At Christmastime, in honor of Saint Nicholas, we give freely to each other, from our hearts, for goodness’ sake alone.  And everyone prospers, just like he said.  We give to charity and help the poor.  We all buy things for each other to be sure we are all provided for.  And we help the people who make things for us by buying what they make and we help the merchants who sell things to us by buying what they have to sell and we help ourselves, all at the same time.

Perhaps it’s in all this buying and selling that the confusion has set in.  I think we forget that the Feast of St. Nicholas is one holiday and Christmas is another.  St. Nick’s day is for feasting and sharing our Earthly treasures.  Christmas is for feasting and celebrating what we have hope for and faith in.

It is not a bad thing that on one day, in honor of a saint who lived a good Christian life, we can fuel the economy of the world.  It is a good thing to be reminded to be humble, to remind ourselves of our better selves and to know that if we live lives that are almost perfect, perhaps the Elves will invite us to live with them too.

Merry christmas and God bless us everyone.



“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle and this is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything in Nature tries to be round.  In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished.  The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it.  The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain, and the north with it’s cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance.  This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion.

Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle.  The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are the stars.  The wind, in it’s greatest power, whirls.  Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.  The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle.  The moon does the same, and both are round.

Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were.  The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everywhere where power moves.  Our tipis were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.”


Oglala Lakota, Sioux,  1931

Retold by Barbara Franke

Rose Hip Syrup with Cloves

Use between 5 and 15 cloves, depending on whether or not you’ve invited the Elves to come for dinner.  It’s rumored that Elves like the smell of cloves.


Rose Hip Juice- 8 oz.

Whole Cloves- 5- 15

White Sugar- 2 Tb.


If you can not find rose hip juice use two to three teaspoons of rose water mixed with 8 ounces of pure glacial water.

Pour the rose hip juice into a small, heavy bottomed, stainless steel saucepan on the stovetop.  Add the cloves and the sugar and heat, stirring, to dissolve the sugar.  Bring just to a bare simmer and cook, uncovered for about 15 minutes, until reduced and syrupy.

Use the sweet syrup on pound cake topped with fresh berries or add a teaspoon or two to a cup of hot tea.  Also, add a tablespoon or two to some pork roasting in the oven, for an unexpected sweetness.  Makes about 3/4 cup.

Recipe by Barbara Franke

Red Butter Sauce

Serve this creamy, deep orange sauce over poached chicken breasts or filets of white fish.  A little is also good over asparagus, or a lot over broccoli.

Use only Greek oregano, which is a different plant from Mexican Oregano.


Butter- 6 Tb.

Paprika- 1/2 tsp.

Turmeric- 1/8 tsp.

Greek Oregano- 1/2 tsp. dried

Salt & Pepper- to taste

Sun Dried Tomatoes- 4 oil cured, drained and chopped

Heavy Cream- 3 Tb.


In a small saucepan on the stove, melt the butter over low heat.  Do not allow it to brown.  Stir in the paprika, turmeric, oregano and some salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat to cool.

In the work bowl of a mini food processor, grind the sun dried tomatoes to a smooth paste.  Add the spiced butter and process again, until smooth and evenly colored.

Reheat gently over low heat, adding the cream slowly and stirring to incorporate.  Do not boil.  Add more salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve warm.  Makes 3/4 cup.

Recipe by Barbara franke


They say that Earth has an energy.  Several perhaps and certainly two.  The first of Earth’s primal energies emanates from within the Earth’s central axis.  It’s an electromagnetic energy.  A life force.  When this energy touches the surface of the Earth at the north and south poles it covers the globe with an animating life force, something that sets molecules into motion and allows life to happen.  Without it all is still.

Like the trunk of a giant tree planted firmly in the universe, the axis of our planet circles the sun.  It twirls us around it, tilting us slightly off center to our rotation around the sun and so giving us the seasons of the year and the hours of the day.  I think this axis energy moves in horizontal circles.  Lines of latitude, moving west in the north and east in the south.  They meet at the equator where it’s been said that the combined energy of the opposite poles is so strong that some people who live there can repel objects thrown at them by sheer force of will.

Things happen along lines of latitude.  Weather happens according to how far north or south of the equator it occurs.  Vegetation grows according to the climates created by that weather.  Hops grow at 49 degrees North.  The hop belt.  It’s about midway between the equator and the North Pole.  Many of the world’s ancient and modern civilizations live somewhere just above or below this line, probably fueled in part by the brew of those hops.  Grapes grow within lines of latitude as well, also fueling the advance of civilization.  Corn, grain, fruit, leaves.  Food is easy.

The Tropic of Cancer marks the most northernly tilt of the Earth towards the sun.  This line bisects the northern hemisphere once again, lying halfway between the equator and the hops belt.  Then the Earth tilts away again until it reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, equally below the equator in the south.  The Tropic of Capricorn crosses the width of Australia, continues through the middle of South America and then through the heart of the south of Africa.  Southerners, with their own mystic realities.  Shamans from Africa and shamans from Australia and shamans from the Americas.

At 45 degrees South the Earth is covered mostly by water.  Perhaps when there is another polar shift the land here will rise and the northern lands will fall.

There is also another energy which exists on Earth.  It’s not an electromagnetic energy.  It’s a harmonic energy, a continual vibration coming from just below the entire surface of the Earth.  It releases Earth’s spiritual force.  Axis energy animates matter.  Harmonic resonance perpetuates the living soul, present in everything, everywhere.  Neither one is created nor is either destroyed.  They exist, in equal and fixed amounts.

There are nine large and 12 small tectonic plates that constitute the crust of the Earth.  They are always in motion, creating a vibrational resonance that can be recorded as sound and transmitted as energy.  A beautiful symphony no doubt, with unlimited power and grace.  Nikolai Tesla said we could tap this energy and Albert Einstein said Tesla was the smartest man on the planet.  Unlimited electromagnetic and vibrational energies.  But so far there hasn’t been much profit in it, at least not perhaps since the times of ancient Egypt.  They were said to have harnessed and used this energy in some form.

Like the winds and the waters which are the other large things on Earth, they say this harmonic resonance moves upon the surface of the world in large swirling patterns.  It’s said to be lucky to live where the flow of energy is strong.  You plant a seed and it grows.  You need the rains and they come.  The land has natural beauty and rich resources and the sky is covered with clouds.  You think positive thoughts and have creative energy.  It’s also said to be unlucky to live where this energy is weak or absent.  Vegetation doesn’t grow, water is hard to find.  Life is a constant struggle.  All is a barren wasteland.  Godforsaken.  The ancient Norse called this Alfreka.  It means the Earth’s spirit is absent, or has been driven away.

It’s been said that it’s possible to draw this energy even closer to yourself by keeping things which attract it.  Things like flowing water.  Crystals and stones as well.  They draw energy to them and then they vibrate along with it.  Trees and the growing things also attract, absorb and release energy.  The breeze carries it.  Good thoughts carry it.  Keep good luck close by.  It will benefit your life.

For many years people have been drawing maps of this elusive energy, trying to chart it’s course although it’s more difficult to see than the wind and harder to touch than the water.  It’s Divine Breath.  The Chinese have called it Ch’i and Qi.  The Northern tradition named it Ond.  In India they call it Prana.  The ancient Greeks called it Pneuma and the ancient Celts named it Nwyvre.  It’s known by other names besides.  It’s life.  Our life and the life of our planet.  Nature gives it to us for free yet we embrace technologies that destroy our home.  Whatever banner is being carried, whether it’s capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, democracy or theology, work towards the common good.  Peace.

Essay by Barbara Franke