Lyrical Laughs

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Have belly, will dance

A few weeks ago, I took on a new challenge. Ignoring the fact that I don’t dance, sashay, or for that matter balance well, I signed up for a weekly belly dancing class through our local adult education program. Spouse didn’t even snicker when I suggested it. I think he was grateful I had stopped suggesting we take ballroom dancing lessons together. He escaped that one because those dances require high heels, and I’m afraid of heights. You don’t need shoes for belly dancing. I’m in.

Any type of dance can be intense exercise, so for this reason I chose not to tell my body where I was going ahead of time. Let’s head toward the ice cream stand, I told my quivering thighs. We’re just going to satisfy our imaginary craving at the nearest drive-thru, I convinced my wobbly arms. I took a right into the school parking lot and never looked back, except to wonder if the ice cream stand would still be open after class.

Shortly after I entered the classroom a handful of women joined me, most of us somewhere in the middle of middle age. The instructor, however, was anything but middle aged - more like an age between First and Second Born. With her perfect posture and tiny but strong dancer’s body, she could rock the bells off her hip scarf. I had to wonder whether this young whipper snapper could work with us old-ish fogies, but she was wonderfully patient and sweet, and she immediately began teaching us just how to whip and snap our somewhat mushy bodies into belly dancing shape.

Luckily, we are relegated to the school cafeteria for our lessons, which means there are no mirrors typically found in dance studios. I would only be able to stand so much hysterical laughter (which would be coming from me) if I had to watch myself attempt to be graceful. Our instructor stands in front of us and we try to mimic her moves. Of course, when she delicately swirls a leg in the air, I thrust my leg out and instantly grab a chair back so I don’t fall over. As her hips make a figure-eight, mine are going more for a triangle in an attempt to not knock a hip out of joint.

Our instructor has been staying after class, video-taping herself reenacting the lessons each week, and e-mailing them to us so we have the option of practicing before the next class. During the first week, I stood in front of my laptop in our living room before Spouse woke up Saturday morning. I studied the video and attempted to follow her steps. It only took 25 minutes of practice to successfully complete a 50-second routine.

As uncoordinated as I am, there is something freeing about belly dancing. The moves can be close to fluid with a little practice, or with a lot of practice in my case. Hip scarves are provided by our instructor to use during the class, giving us the chance to jingle and jangle when we jiggle. I’ve learned to let my fingers and arms slip smoothly through the air in a gentle lilt. I can protrude my pelvis and shimmy my shoulders right along with the other eager students who are challenging themselves to experiment with this very different kind of movement.

There are two more weeks of lessons to go and I can guarantee you won’t be confusing me with a professional belly dancer any time soon, but I’ll keep practicing. Any dance where you can shake it while shoeless is my kind of dance.

Monday, May 1, 2017

First, we learned how to pronounce quinoa

There is a bag of quinoa on my kitchen counter, you know, the kind you pour from a giant bin into a flimsy plastic bag four times before you hit a pound on the mystery scale. In case you were wondering, I don’t search out quinoa very often. If I had my druthers I’d be buying chocolate chips from those bins. But we’re trying to find some better alternatives to our occasionally questionable food choices.

It took a while to track down the aisle where quinoa and all those other bins of grains and stuff are now hidden since our local supermarket went and renovated. I refuse to refer to those green maps planted around the store. I believe the order should make sense and not be a lesson in futility over finding rice or seltzer water.

The problem is those bags that you pour food into don’t come with directions, and we are less than proficient at preparing unknown substances such as this, though we’ve come a long way since we couldn’t even pronounce quinoa. Come on, you know it looks like quin-OH-uh. The more popular this oddly powerful ingredient became the more we heard it pronounced Keen-wah. I don’t think that pronunciation even makes sense but who am I to argue with health-conscious proponents of this grain-like substance? That’s the other thing – I’ve seen it described as a grain-like substance, the seed from part of a plant, and a seed grain. How many different ways are there to say that it’s not really a grain?

Spouse keeps saying he wants to figure out what to do with the quinoa for breakfast. Anyone who’s been married for more than 30 years knows what he’s really saying is that he wants yours truly to figure out what to do with the quinoa for breakfast. I tried a new recipe last week that included bananas, cinnamon, butter and maple syrup. This led to the discovery that quinoa needs a lot of help to sweeten up. I added brown sugar and extra syrup, and even with that I could see by his dubious expression that it sort of passed as a breakfast food.

The quinoa seed has competition from the chia seed as far as offering health benefits, and it’s certainly easier to pronounce, especially to those of us who grew up with those ch-ch-ch-chia commercials. You’re singing it now, aren’t you. Because I work with people who are vegetarian, vegan or gluten free, I hear a lot about beans, soy, and edamame. Why is health food so hard to pronounce anyway? Does that word look like eddamommay?

The older we get the more conscious we need to be of how to stick around a little longer, especially since they keep making our retirement age higher. But even when we were younger we were exposed to healthier eating, or at least what sounded healthier at the time. I’ll bet Baby Boomers remember the cereal commercials with outdoorsman Euell Gibbons claiming that the taste reminded him of wild hickory nuts. Seriously, I don’t want to eat anything that tastes like a tree. I just want to be alive to enjoy my not-yet-conceived grandchildren.

On my kitchen counter are bags of green lentils and garbanzo beans, which I knew growing up only as chick peas, and already puffed up in a can. I had carefully included these items on my grocery list about a month ago in preparation for an interesting vegetarian dish I had seen on a website or an email or maybe Facebook. That’s the problem. Darned if I can find the recipe I wanted to use this stuff for.

So, if you have a great recipe that I can throw lentils and garbanzo beans into (and don’t have to add chicken to make it flavorful), by all means pass it on. I’m going to just put these bags of beans right back in the kitchen cabinet where they… oooh, look – I just found the last of the Girl Scout cookies.

Now what??