Thursday was my birthday. I don't usually like to make a big deal out of it. It's just another day to me, personally, but everybody else tries to make it more, so I usually get stuck thinking bigger thoughts about it.
I mentioned how I wasn't really looking forward to it when I was last at the Zen Center and was told it makes for a good practice to contemplate my mortality. Not the best thing to think about, but necessary and it got me thinking about how I really feel about my birthday.
I know I tell myself thinking about my birthday makes me feel older, but when I really think about it, I don't. I think it's me just buying into what other people say. Fundamentally, I feel the same everyday, even if I understand I'm different each moment. Why do we have to use years to mark the passage of our lives? When I sit in practice, minutes and seconds seem to be all that matters as the pain builds in my legs.
I think I'm just in the habit of regretfully celebrating my birthday because I never really felt a sense of accomplishment for the year. Yeah, looking over each year, there were things I got done and made progress with, but the last year I actually did things I can count as successes and milestones.
Restarting Aikido, I earned two ranks, bumping myself to gokyu. I feel I've made a successful commitment making it a substantial part of who I am. I also started the zen practice I've been toying with for several years, making it a daily habit and helping to give some definition to what I believe and how I see the world, as well as reaping some benefits I've mentioned before.
I think the biggest thing as far as life in the "real" world is my success with school. I got back into culinary school after being kicked out of another for two years of awful attendance. Not only did I successfully complete the term, but I earned myself straight A's which I don't think I've ever, ever done.
So maybe next year's birthday will have a little more celebration to it. By this time next year, I should have graduated and gotten a real job. I'll be paying back student loans, but I'll be done with school by thirty.
Speaking of food and celebration, though. I was more or less dragged to dinner by my girlfriend and a friend of hers for my birthday and thankfully I did take the initiative and chose where. One of the classes I'm taking right now is Charcuterie, which to those that don't know, is basically the production of any meats ground or cured. It originally was a cuisine based on necessity, using all the parts of the animal westerners don't usually consider edible, mostly the different organs. These days, it's kind of frowned upon by most westerners since it's usually cured at temperatures in what's referred to as the "danger zone" which is between 40 and 130 degrees where bacteria is able to thrive. It's making a comeback as a dying art, so I'm pretty interested.
I think it's great because it's a respectful way to treat an animal, you don't just take the steaks and chops and bacon and toss the rest as dog food or compost. It helps to fully appreciate the gift of a creature's life. The fact that it usually tastes great is just a bonus.
Most of charcuterie items I've had were of the more refined type, prosciutto, serano ham, terrines and fois gras, but the restaurant we went to was more rustic and I had pork cheek and black pudding for the first time. The pork cheek was served with marinated wild mushrooms and had a texture that pretty much resembled that, kind of like a pickled portabella mushroom. The black pudding was a little more extreme a food. Black pudding is basically a sausage but it gets it's color by using the coagulants in blood as a binder instead of pork fat as its binder to hold it together. Having never had it before, I can only assume it was good and that it just wasn't something I really enjoy. Fat in sausage definitely has a better, more moist, feel in the mouth. The black pudding was a little drier, but at least I can say I've tried it.
Sorry to any vegetarians who might take disgust, but I don't have a problem eating critters and feel grateful for their gift. I'll talk about that some other time.
Happy birthday to me