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Umeboshi-tahini dressing | First time in an art show

Posted Oct 12 2012 10:30am
Today's memory comes from when I was in my early 20s and living in Syracuse, NY. I was doing a lot of painting at the time, and had created a three-foot by three-foot abstract painting I called Nude in a Garden, that I liked a lot. I had a friend — an artist who also taught art in a public school — who told me I should enter my painting in the Everson Museum Invitational, a juried exhibit that attracted entries from around the country. My first reaction was negative — I was very shy about showing my art, and this was way too public. No, no, no. But she kept harassing me, and I finally relented and dragged the painting down to the museum. Ugh. I was prepared only for rejection, so when the notice came that my painting had been accepted, I was shocked. Could barely breathe. I called my friend to see if she'd gotten her acceptance, but she hadn't. And she didn't. She and all her artist friends had entered, and only I, a casual artist at best, got in. Well.

The evening of the opening arrived and my husband and I went to the museum. I was a little shaky, but excited. We wandered the rooms until I caught sight of my painting, and it was too much. I couldn't enter the space. I glanced at my body to make sure I was wearing clothes, because I felt so naked and exposed. I hated the painting that I had previously liked so much — it was hung badly, it clashed with the paintings on either side, the colors looked bad, the frame was wrong, etc. etc. etc. I just couldn't wait for the show to be over so I could get the painting back home. Horrible.

My attitude toward seeing my work in public has never improved, and I reacted the same way to seeing my things in other shows, even in ones where I received an award. I've even gone to a show with a friend and refused to tell her which piece was mine. I thought I was singularly neurotic until I went with a highly creative co-worker to an art show in which he had two pieces, and he refused to tell me which ones they were! I couldn't believe it, but we had a good laugh over our shared problem, and he finally relented. His paintings were amazing, but he saw only catastrophe instead of art.

It's been a long time since I've put my personal art in public. As a graphic designer, my designs were very public, but no one knew they were mine. I liked the anonymity.

Today's recipe is umeboshi-tahini dressing. I've been putting this stuff on my grains, beans and salads for so long I don't even think of it as a recipe. In fact, I never measure the ingredients, but I did so I could post a recipe. I learned to make it when I followed a macrobiotic diet, and I never stopped using it. It tastes so good and adds a special tang to whatever food it's applied to. Salad dressings can be very anonymous, but this one stands out and refuses to be overlooked.

Some people get annoyed when they see "weird" ingredients like "umeboshi paste" listed in a recipe. It sounds so exotic and obscure. But is using Japanese umeboshi plums really so different from using all the other wonderful foods and condiments we've adopted from other countries? It's just another powerful flavor source that's good for your health as well as your palate. Look at all the Mexican foods like chipotle in adobo, or salsa verde, or Middle Eastern foods like hummus, felafel or tabooli. At one time they were considered exotic and strange.

Umeboshi plums and paste are made from a very small, round fruit closely related to the apricot, that is pickled with salt and shiso leaves. You can buy them whole or as a more convenient-to-use paste. It may seem expensive but it goes a long way, and I don't buy it very often. It has a salty-sour taste that goes especially well with the bitter flavor of tahini.

Umeboshi-tahini dressing
  • 1 teaspoon umeboshi paste
  • 1 generous tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup, maple syrup or other sweetener of choice
  • 1 tablespoon water to start, plus more as needed
Place the umeboshi, tahini, lemon juice, sweetener and water in a small dish or measuring cup. Mix to a smooth consistency. Add more water, a little at a time, as necessary to achieve a creamy dressing that is thick but will drizzle from a spoon. The amount of water depends on the texture of your tahini.

I don't usually sweeten the dressing when it's going to be used on beans or grains, only when it's destined for a green salad — and not always even then. And I don't always add lemon — just tahini, umeboshi and water.

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Most current piece - "It's About Time" - collage with acrylic paint

"Quilt" - colored pencil, acrylic, pen

Watercolor painting for garden journal

Painted bird house
Acrylic painting from an album photo
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