Ego Magic (published)

Here is the third and final poem of mine that was printed in the 2013 Winter Issue of Red Rose Review. You can find Ego Magic on their website here and be sure to check out their page to see what else is featured in the winter issue. And I would just like to say “thank you” to Red Rose Review again!

Ego Magic
Corinne Gaston

I was born amongst priestesses and horned gods
in a temple of a half-truth wasteland
I was draped in purple, before kings stole my color for their robes
I am a knife, leaping of my own will into the hearts of wolves
I am the witch in the company of vagabonds
I drink murky infinity in an espresso cup
I suck out the marrow from the bones of time
I devour the past
I boldly stride through the threshold of death
and return with the elixir of life
I stand before dragons who shriek with all their ghastly teeth
and I kiss them
I am the voice you hear in the deep, star-swallowing well
I am the underneath


Temple (published poem)

Here is a second poem of mine that was printed in the 2013 Winter Issue of Red Rose Review. You can find “Temple” on their website here. Also, take a look at the table of contents for the current issue and browse around.

Temple
Corinne Gaston

Out of all things I could want,
I want another night in the garden with you.

Another night of us bathed
in the orange evening song of seven-thirty.
When the hummingbirds linger around us
and the spiders come to bow at our feet.

When you have gathered our oracles:
the copper fleur-de-lis you carved for your family’s name,
my little marble figurines,
the ceramic jar I pinched together with my thumbs.

The incense burning sweet.

I would kiss the skin above your elbows, the veins
running railroads
down the mountains of your arms.

I would lie between the tomato sprouts with you
in the chartreuse froth of ferns,
beneath the citrus glow of the guava tree,
wander in the taste of your mouth,
the warmth your chest.

We could weave the breath of our prayers into the soil
and lick grainy salt from our fingers, our fingers
gathering the whispering smoke in the grass, whispers
building where bricks have failed.

What gifts could I bring you?
You
with your sparrow words of love
and the soft nightingale-brown of your eyes?

In the next night, let us crush the shards of sea-glass
hanging from the stooped tree that makes liquorice-bitter avocados.
Let us scatter the dust
into the air, sow the green glitter into the soil.

Let me feed the crumbs of your fears
to the mockingbirds.
The evening
purples around us like a bruise.

Mars (Published Poem)

I would like to thank Red Rose Review for published this poem, “Mars,” that I wrote in Paris back in 2013. You can view the poem on their website here. Enjoy!

Mars
Corinne Gaston

I can still feel the smoky wild dagga of your eyes
the char of your hair,
the embers in your laughing breath.

You, who devoured tarot cards like candy.
You, who prayed
with your forehead pressed with ash
and your hands knucklebone deep in the ochre dirt.

Your crowned spirit shed its body like a garter snake,
leaving it here for us to burn

and in days to come I will build you monuments of spiraling bricks,
paint them
with the charcoal of your funeral pyre
here beneath the curtains of infernal sunset.

Here
where I bathe in molten puddles
and tuck rose petals beneath my tongue,
where I dress your corpse for burial.

You were my mercurial star,

the alizarin drumbeat of my heart.

Tonight,

in the red gardens of Mars, the lions weep.

Sea Snake in Paje

“How are you enjoying your sunburn?” the bartender asked with a grin.

I handed him a 1000 Tanzanian shillings note for the water I was buying for the beach.

“Sunburn?”

“I can tell,” he said, still grinning.

I shrugged nonchalantly, not quite believing him. “Eh, it’ll be okay.”

I thanked him for the water and headed to the beach. I hadn’t been sunburned in years and the last time was because I had been on a beach in the Bahamas in the sun all day when it was well over 90 degrees.

…I guess Paje wasn’t so different. I was suddenly glad that I had brought a beach wrap with me that I would be able to drape over my shoulders. I had planned to do some water sports while I still had time in Paje, but I felt so relaxed, all I wanted to do was hang out on the sand. Around 1pm, I went out to explore the sandbars exposed at low tide, but this time I went with my friends Christina and Wendi. After maybe 15 minutes or so, my shoulder began to hurt and I realized in surprise that the bartender really had honed in on my sunburn before I had!

I saw some of the same things I had seen the day before such as the huffy striped transparent shrimp on the sandbar, but this time was more exciting. Christina occasionally jumped after stepping on things that moved. It only happened to her for most of the time we were out there, and then it happened to Wendi and me. We still don’t know what she was stepping on, but they could have been fish, crabs, or maybe small rays. We had been out for maybe 15 minutes when one of them shouted “snake!” Just a few feet in front of us, a white snake with black stripes was calmly winding past us beneath the shallow waves. I’m not kidding when I say ‘shallow,’ that water was a foot and a half deep at most. I almost didn’t see the snake because it looked barely opaque. We quickly debated whether we thought it was poisonous or not. Because it had blended it so well against the sand, we bet that it wasn’t.

“Corinne, get a video of it!”

Christina tossed me her GoPro and I followed after the snake as closely as I dared. I love snakes and this one was beautiful, but I wasn’t trying to get bitten 15 minutes from shore. Well, I preferred not to get bitten at all. The snake didn’t mind us even a little so I dunked the GoPro under the water and hoped that I got a decent video. Days later, we learned that the majority of Hydrophiidae (aka: sea snakes) are highly venomous and I suddenly felt pretty foolish for chasing after one with a camera.

I still don’t know the name of the species and unfortunately I don’t have any photos. White sea snake with black stripes. Any ideas, blogosphere?

 

 

Soap & Suds at the Seaweed Center

When we first arrived in Paje, my eyes were drawn to the neat rows and columns of sturdy sticks in the shallow water right off of the beach. At first I paid them no mind, but I soon realized that they had been strategically placed to collect seaweed. Seaweed is a big name in Paje. Hundreds of women have harvested and sold seaweed for years, but historically, they’ve earned very little for their work, often harvesting small amounts and exporting the raw goods at extremely low prices. The nearby Seaweed Center, which just opened in 2011, hires several dozen women who are able to earn a regular wage. And I’m pretty sure the Seaweed Center is a cooperative.

After I explored the expanse of sandbar, rock, and shallow waters exposed at low tide, I visited the Seaweed Center with my friends Christina and Wendi. It took us a while to find it. We walked up the beach for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, asked a couple women for directions, and were finally directed inland, crossing through plots of grassy land with unfinished houses, between hostels, and across dirt roads white with sand.

One of the women working there greeted us outside the shop and gave us a small tour of the facilities. She showed us where the seaweed is first stored and dried after they collect it from the ocean and she even gave us a little to taste. It was crunchy and plain, with a slight flavor of sea salt. After the taste test, she took us inside and briefly walked us through the process of making the soaps. It takes multiple days to make a batch of soap, but it seemed to be well worth it. She told us that they sell quite a bit to local hotels and shops. There are even business people over in the U.S. that will come and buy their soap in bulk and take it back to sell in boutiques. Tourism is bringing in an increasing amount of revenue.

After showing us the heaps and packed shelves of seaweed beauty products in their storeroom, she led us back into the shop. They have an array of scents: lemongrass, turmeric, lime, clove, and coffee-clove. I bought one for myself and then I went a little overboard and stocked up on the soaps as token Christmas gifts.

The Best Vegetarian Gravy Ever

This is the recipe I used to make vegetarian gravy for Christmas dinner. I looked up a bunch of recipes online and then cobbled together my own concoction, and luckily it turned out to be delicious! This recipe is kind of loose when it comes to measurements, which I hope isn’t too frustrating. It’s pretty simple to readjust the amounts to your personal taste, which is why I wasn’t too rigid. I love mushrooms, so I added tons and tons of mushrooms. You like onions and sage? Add more onions and sage. Taste your gravy throughout the cooking process to make sure it’s how you like it, but I found that it didn’t get that classic “gravy” flavor until after I added the fresh sage and thyme. Yeah, so definitely don’t skip the sage and thyme!

To make this recipe vegan, simply switch out the butter for a vegan replacement like Earth Balance!

Also, if you have a big group of people (or if you really just love gravy), I highly recommend multiplying this recipe. This one is good for maybe six people.

Ingredients:

  • Butter or vegan replacement like Earth Balance
  • 2 onions
  • Several cloves of garlic
  • All-purpose flour
  • Vegetable Stock (the brand of vegetable stock you pick will have a pretty big influence on the flavor of the stock. Mine was more mild and sweet and less savory than I wanted, so I offset that with thyme and sage
  • Tons of mushrooms (brown and baby bella will do just fine)
  • 4 Carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • Fresh sage
  • Fresh thyme
  • Black pepper
  • Paprika
  • Oregano
  • Garlic
  • Gravy master (but browning or soy sauce might work too)
  • Salt (to taste)

Before getting started with the cooking, you should chop your vegetables and set them aside:

  • Dice 2 onions
  • Mince 3 garlic cloves
  • Slice up to 3 cups of mushrooms (don’t dice. The bigger pieces of mushrooms will add some nice texture and thickness to the sauce)
  • Chop four carrots into thick chunks
  • Chop up the celery, also into thick chunks

Now for the fun part!

  1. Put 4 to 5 tablespoons of butter (or vegan equivalent) in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the diced onion and let it cook for a minute or two before adding the minced garlic.
  3. Occasionally stir and cook the onion and garlic until the onion is caramelized.
  4. Add 3 to 4 teaspoons of flour and mix everything together. (The flour and butter will combine to make a roux, which will act as a thickening agent for the gravy later on. It’s better to add the flour before the liquid, because adding it after might cause it to lump up if you don’t stir quickly enough)
  5. Slowly stir in 3 cups of vegetable stock.
  6. Add the sliced mushrooms, carrots, and celery.
  7. Add several whole fresh sage leaves and some fresh thyme (add more depending on personal taste.)
  8. Bring the gravy to a boil
  9. Reduce heat.
  10. 10. At this point, add the other spices: black pepper, paprika or cayenne, garlic powder, and oregano to taste. (DON’T add salt)
  11. 11. Let the gravy simmer for a while so the vegetables have time to soften.
  12. 12. Once the vegetables are soft enough for you, begin to constantly stir the gravy until it thickens (you can also choose to stir it occasionally if you have other things you’re tending to, but this way takes longer)
  13. 13. Add a dash or two of Gravy Master, stir and taste.
  14. 14. If the gravy isn’t salty enough for you, this is when you should add it. I left the salt for last in case the veggie stock and Gravy Master/soy sauce automatically added the right amount.
  15. 15. Enjoy!

ps: I broke my own rule and added a little extra flour around step 10, but I made sure to stir quickly so the flour didn’t clump up!

pss: I’m a dope, so I didn’t take any photos. Next time!

Vegetarian Christmas Feast

Quite a few people out there consider “vegetarian” and “Christmas dinner” to be just about as incompatible as “vegetarian” and “Thanksgiving,” given the turkey centerpiece, the ham, the sausage stuffing, the smoked pork in the collards, etc. After I became vegetarian, many relatives asked incredulously, “but what do you eat?” while probably imagining raw lettuce, walnuts, and cubes of tofu. I knew going in that the holidays would be different from there on out, but much of the food on the holiday dinner table is what I’ll call “accidentally vegetarian” such as the mac-and-cheese, salad, cornbread, rice and peas, and cranberry sauce. And honestly, while there’s a thing or two I haven’t found decent vegetarian replacements for such as glazed ham (let me know if you find it!), you can make just about everything vegetarian (and delicious) for Christmas dinner. Some things were as easy as convincing my parents to switch out chicken and beef stock for veggie stock, while gravy (loose recipe to come next) took a little more effort on my part. But I had no problem jumping into the kitchen to help, and to be blunt, while I love a good salad, that’s not what I was going to get stuck eating because there would be nothing else.

For Christmas Eve dinner at my mom’s house, the table was crammed with cornbread stuffing, rice and peas, stewed black beans and mushrooms with smoked paprika, braised kale, sauteed brussels sprouts with garlic and onions, mac-and-cheese, and mushroom gravy. My sister, my boyfriend, and I (who are all vegetarian) had plenty to eat and so did my mother and step-dad, who chose to keep a “small” turkey and ham on the table. The black beans, kale, and (as far as I knew) rice and peas were all vegan. And the sauteed brussels sprouts and gravy could have been vegan if we had left out the butter. For the mac-and-cheese, I just used Martha Stewart’s recipe, which is easily one of the most delicious versions I’ve had. The only differences are that I 1. used the aged white cheddar, gruyere, AND pecorino romano (the pecorino adds a nice saltiness) 2. added sauteed onion and garlic and 3. I added way more spices, including garlic powder and adobe seasoning, because this recipe needed a touch more salt.

I didn’t think to snap a photo of the dinner spread, but I got one of Christmas Day dinner at a relative’s house. My dad made some amazing lasagna which went perfectly alongside the mac-and-cheese, kale, candied sweet potatoes, salad, cornbread, brussels sprouts, rice, and gravy.

Anyone who thinks you can’t have a good vegetarian Christmas dinner needs to come over to my house next year!

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Christmas leftovers breakfast with some toast, yogurt, and a mug of soothing chai tea with cinnamon sticks

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