Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "As a Form of Cultural Bricolage"

This poem is spillover from the March 3, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman and [personal profile] erulisse. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"As a Form of Cultural Bricolage"

[Monday, August 3, 2015]

They had talked about wedding plans
off and on all day, so when evening came,
everyone was ready to sit back and relax.

Tolli and Simon were all excited about
some new show coming on television,
and Luci was game to give it a go.

Shiv wanted to try something
he'd been thinking about ever since
Gray had discovered Indian food.

There'd been this naked salad
with no dressing, only spices on top.
Shiv thought that idea would work as
fingerfood with a mix of fruit and veggies.

So he cubed honeydew, cantaloupe,
and watermelon. He peeled cucumbers
and cut them into long spears, quartered
fingerling zucchini and summer squash.

He also spread out some cheese curds
and a whole carton of plain yogurt.

Then he brought out the spice blends.

Some were things that Tolli and Simon
had bought or made up themselves,
such as Cajun red seasoning and
blackened seasoning, or the stuff
that was called Southwest or fajita
or taco seasoning based on who
you happened to ask about it.

Some came from around the world --
Arabic baharat, Ethiopian berbere,
Egyptian dukkah from the Middle East
that Zipper had probably given them.

There was Luci's Szechuan blend
with its weird tingly peppercorns, too.

Shiv had made up the masalas himself,
so those were in random jars with names
written on stickers. He had mixed up
real curry powder, chaat masala, and
the fiery red stuff called gun powder.

Then he heaped everything onto
the two huge serving trays that
Tolli and Simon had bought
when they realized Shiv knew
how handle those things.

They were convenient when
you were making food for folks who
ate several times the usual amount.

Tolli and Simon might not be soups,
but they kept horses and mowed grass
with scythes, so they could keep up
with Shiv and Luci, no problem.

Everyone made exited noises
at the sight of all that food.

"Sweaty day, so I made
cold snacks instead of
popcorn," Shiv said as he
set it on the coffee table.
"See, the idea is to contrast
warming spices on cold food."

Simon promptly grabbed
a piece of watermelon and
the Cajun red. Tolli went for
cucumber and Southwest.

Luci took honeydew and
Szechuan, nibbled it, then said,
"This is wonderful! It's too bad
we don't have any lychees, though."

"I just went with what was fresh,"
Shiv said. "There might be a can of
lychees, or we can look for them at
a Chinese market another day."

She was probably right, though,
those had the same kind of
crisp sweet flavor that would
go great with hot spices. So
would some other Asian stuff.

Shiv grabbed a cucumber and
dusted it with curry powder,
then shoved it in his mouth.

Oh yeah. Handheld salad.
Damn, that was good stuff!

"These are wonderful, Shiv,
thank you for making them,"
Tolli said. "I'm reminded of
some salad boats I've had."

Simon nodded. "Salad Palace
makes things like that. The ones
with little tomatoes are great."

"We're already out of tomatoes
and lettuce," Shiv said. "Plus I
used up all the baby squash,
cantaloupe, and honeydew.
There's still half a watermelon
and some cucumbers though."

"Don't worry about it, we'll go
shopping tomorrow," Tolli said,
waving away the confession.

Then the show came on, and
they all turned to watch it.

Maguire for Hire was a remake
of an older television show, which
had dramatized the adventures of
Ian Maguire, an Irish super-gizmologist
known for building things out of scrap
because he didn't want to buy them or
couldn't easily find what he needed.

From what Shiv could tell, it was
all about jerryrigging stuff from
whatever came to hand, which
was pretty much what he did.

Shiv didn't think that he was
a super-gizmologist, though.
Even the things that Edison
built were way over his head.

Shiv just made tools using
his superpowers because
he was too damn lazy to do
everything the slow way.

This first episode was
about a museum getting
a big donation that now had
everyone squabbling over
which display would get it.

The African-American folks were
fighting with the Hispanic folks,
the Asians were fighting with
the Native Americans, and
the white folks were fighting
with pretty much everyone else.

Maguire was new enough to
the melting pot that not much of it
stuck to him, and he focused on
keeping folks from killing each other
over some old stuff and a wad of dough.

Shiv could sympathize with that. In
some ways it was like trying to settle
arguments between rival gangs.

The similarities were enough
to make him laugh at odd times.

There were bits of Irish in
the dialog, too, that snagged
at Shiv's attention like little hooks,
trying to draw him in deeper.

"As a form of cultural bricolage,
I move back and forth within
the same conversation between
cultural forms, changing from
mbracht to heather without
hesitation," Maguire said.

Where the historic guy had
come from Ireland itself,
the one on television was
Irish-American, like the Finns.

So he had to figure out how
to balance those two cultures,
as well as soup and nary.

Shiv felt a little sorry for him.
That couldn't be easy, not
even for someone so smart.

It was interesting to watch,
though, the way Maguire could
take a box of scraps and make
just about anything from scratch.

After a while, Shiv realized that
Maguire was doing that as much
with language and culture as
he was with pieces of junk.

It was weirdly like watching
Edison gut the microwave again.

You just knew the pieces weren't
meant to go together like that,
but they lit up anyway.

That made Shiv smile.

In the end, Maguire managed
to put away the bad guys (for whom
even Shiv felt no sympathy, because
they were dicks) and then convince
the good guys to share the wealth.

"Diaspora is culture itself, life as
bricolage and métissage, always
away from home, but always
at home as well," Maguire said.
"No culture is 'pure' because
none of us are isolated. We
are all part of each other."

And wasn't that the truth?

Here they were, lily-white Shiv
with his Chinese-American sister,
Tolli and Simon curled together like
the yin-yang thing in the yoga room,
noshing on foods from around the world.

It was good. It was good. If you'd asked
him about this shit a year ago, then
he would've freaked. He wouldn't
have believed it was possible.

But here he was, and he
was really glad about it.

To Shiv's surprise, the show
shifted to an "about the science" bit
after the episode proper had ended.

He even learned a few science facts
related to the show, which was fun.

It turned out that some of the things
featured had actually been invented by
the historic Maguire, some were inspired
by things currently in development, and
other ones were pure imagination.

There were links to a website
where you could find instructions
for related craft projects suited to
several levels of age and ability.

Shiv wrote down the address.
He loved playing with metal.

"So what did you think?"
Tolli asked as he grabbed
the last piece of watermelon.

"I shoulda put in something pungent,"
Shiv realized abruptly. "You know,
green onions or bitter apples?"

Tolli laughed. "Fair enough,
but I meant the television show."

"I'm sure Edison loved it too,"
Shiv said. "It's right up his alley."

"He hasn't seen it yet," Tolli said.
"We decided it would be saner
to have the engineers watch it
first, then discuss how well or
poorly it handles safety issues
and challenging emotions."

Shiv thought about that.

"Well, I wouldn't give the kid
a box of scraps after watching it,
but I wouldn't do that anyway,"
he pointed out. "They got through
a real dicey situation with people
yelling threats, but not much of it
actually came down to fighting,
and it turned out okay in the end."

"I agree," Luci said. "Edison
should do fine as long as he
has someone to work with him."

"Well, he doesn't have a mentor yet,
but we're watching for one," Tolli said.
"We can keep an eye on him for now."

"Why not try the craft projects?"
Shiv said. "They look safe enough,
I mean, the pieces are safe. It won't
matter if he starts building the thing
on the screen and winds up with
something totally different."

"That is an excellent idea,"
Tolli said, then typed something
on his vidwatch. "Suggestion sent."

"I hope it helps," Shiv said.
"Not getting to play with stuff
really sucks." He looked away.

"It was very wrong of your fosters
to take everything away from you,"
Tolli said. "That was neglect."

Shiv shrugged. "I threw things."

"Then they should have given you
things that were safe to throw, and
a suitable place to do so," Tolli said.

Luci muttered something in Chinese
that sounded incredibly rude.

"You can't make peace with
yourself or others if nobody
shows you how," she said,
switching to English. "Think
about what yoga does for you."

"Makes me feel calm, at least
on a good day," Shiv said.

"Well, you can't do that if you
can't move, right?" Luci said.
"You needed people to help you
figure out how to handle your feelings,
and nobody did. They let you down."

"Yeah, yeah," Shiv said, grabbing
the empty plates so he wouldn't
have to talk about this shit.

Luci put a hand over his,
light as a feather, but it
stopped him in his tracks.

"Shiv-ya, be here now,"
she said softly. "You know
that what happened in the past
was wrong. You know how
to do better so the same thing
doesn't happen to anyone else."

"Bricolage," Shiv said. "Art made
from lost things, broken things ..."

"Beautiful things," Luci said.
"I've seen what you make from
scraps of metal or glass."

"Story of my life," Shiv said.

"It's part of you," Luci said,
"and you have a wonderful gift."

That was true, and he probably
wouldn't have this superpower
if it wasn't for his crappy past.

He wouldn't have this family,
either, and now that he did,
he wouldn't trade it for anything.

"Yeah, okay," he said with half a smile.
"Help me carry the dishes to the sink?"
He offered her one of the big trays.

"Any time, Shiv-ya," Luci said
as she picked up the tray.

"I'll wash, you dry," Tolli said
to Simon, and Simon nodded.

* * *

Notes:

"As a form of cultural bricolage, I move back and forth in the same conversation between cultural forms, for example, metric and imperial measurements; and my “I” has changed in the process as well, as a project of continuous bricolage. As a result of this métissage of cultural practices, I developed an identity—which is always based on the interpretation of what a person does—that is neither German or European (my colleagues and even my family say that I am North American, speaking German with an accent) nor Canadian (where people say that I am German, though I am very different from my siblings)."
-- "Diaspora"

"Diaspora is culture itself, life as bricolage and métissage, always away from home, but always at home as well.
-- "Diaspora"

In the arts, bricolage (French for "DIY" or "do-it-yourself projects") is the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work constructed using mixed media. Learn how to do it. Here are some bricolage projects to try.

Members of the cucumber family, known as cucurbits, include summer squash, zucchini, winter squash, mirliton, pumpkin, gourd, cucuzzi, watermelon, cantaloupe, cushaw, luffa and, of course, cucumber.

Indian spice blends are called masalas. They include curry powder, gun powder, and chaat masala.

In Cajun Red Seasoning, red spices dominate this blend. While there are many recipes, it is important to choose one where red (paprika, cayenne, etc.) ingredients dominate the layout when the spices are piled side-by-side before mixing.

In Cajun Blackened Seasoning, black spices dominate this blend. While there are many recipes, it is important to choose one where black (peppercorns) or dark green (thyme, oregano) ingredients dominate the layout when the spices are piled side-by-side before mixing.

Southwest Seasoning goes by various names. Here is a recipe for Taco Seasoning Mix. You can also buy taco seasoning.

Learn how to make Szechuan Seasoning or buy some.

Here is a recipe for Baharat Seasoning.

You can make or buy Berbere Seasoning.

This is a recipe for Dukkah Spice Blend.

Learn how to make Za'atar or buy it.

Warming vs. cooling foods appear in Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and other systems. Compare summer spices and winter warming spices.

Salad Boats are made from lettuce leaves filled with other vegetables.

Salad Palace is a healthy fast food chain in Terramagne-America. They serve a wide variety of vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, and carnivore salads. They also do rolls and sandwiches with things like tuna salad, turkey salad, or egg salad. Desserts are variations on fruit salad. You can order one of their standard salads or make your own from the bar. People with allergies or other special needs can order things made in a separate room to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

In Terramagne slang, "Maguire things" is their equivalent of "MacGyver things." Instead of a TV show, they had Maguire, an Irish super-gizmologist known for building things out of scrap because he didn't want to buy them or couldn't easily find what he needed. In essence, it's similar to Jerryrigger's ability to make something out of anything. So "Maguire something" is valid, but so is the generic "jerryrig" or "jury-rig."

mbracht (variously rendered as "speckled" or "variegated," referring to small-spotted patterns such as merle or heather) -- people who are a mix of light and dark, rather than a smooth blend, tending to behave like white capes in some specific circumstances but black in others; consistent rather than changing

For Irish color references, see "In Lebor Ogaim," "Expanded Ogham Guide," and "Irish Colours." Note that spelling and pronunciation vary.
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