October 12, 2012

Umeboshi-tahini dressing | First time in an art show

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

40 comments:

  1. Nice job, posting your art! I see you've overcome that a little bit! Yay.

    Have you ever tried your dressing with umeboshi vinegar instead? I know the flavor won't be the same, but I've got some that's been hanging around for a long time.

    xo
    kittee

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    1. It's totally making me cringe, but I'm trying.

      I have tried it with vinegar but its not the same - too harsh or something.

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  2. Blown away by your art, Andrea. So glad you posted it all and with a great recipe to boot.
    Jim Croce...untimely death, great tribute. Just saw that there is a new book out on him. Thank you for stepping forward and sharing.

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    1. Blown away in a good way I hope.

      We're in San Diego right near where the Croce family has their restaurant.

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    2. Of course, in a good way. Yes, yes. Fantastic.
      I didn't know that they had a restaurant. Have a great time in San Diego.

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  3. so cool! I don't think I knew you were an artist ... or at least I forgot! I have some paintings online too: www.ameymathews.com Good for you, sharing your art! I've never had the problem of not wanting to tell people which ones are mine (also not an option when you're having a solo show! ha ha) - but I can definitely relate to how different the same piece of work looks when you see in all hung up for a show, in a different context, through different eyes. It's such an interesting phenomena.

    Also, the dressing sounds great. I love umeboshi flavor! I don't know if I've got any u. paste sitting around, but I know I've got a bottle of the vinegar in my cupboards...

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    1. I'm not really a working artist - I don't try to sell my stuff. I was a graphic designer. I really can't stand my stuff in shows so I've never pursued that. However, ya never know what I might deside to do next.

      The vinegar is tasty but its not the same as using plums.

      Thanks for the link to your art page — I'll definitely go take a look. Your sketches are so nice!

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    2. The portraits are amazing, Amey. I loved them!

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    3. thanks so much, andrea! it's fun to share art with my bloggy friends! :)

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  4. Wow, Andrea--your artwork is beautiful! I wouldn't be shy about sharing it if I could do art like that :-) Sadly, my artistic skills are about on par with my math skills...as in, non existant, lol!

    Courtney

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    1. Thank you Courtney. I feel like I tapped into my math skills for a year but then the tap broke or something. :)

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    2. If you can do art like that, your need for math skills is minimal :-) However, I it sounds like your math skills are still way above and beyond mine, lol! Seriously, I am pitiful...

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  5. I remember some of those! Beautiful!

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    1. Thank you, Claire. Miss you!

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  6. Oh Andrea, your art work is truly fantastic! What talent! I can understand feeling insecure about putting your work out there, but you really shouldn't be. Most of us will just stand in awe thinking...wow, I wish I could do that!

    I love the recipe too! I was contemplating some umeboshi paste for a recipe last weekend, but it was pricey at PCC, so just used ume vinegar instead. I'm definitely going to invest in some paste and give this a try, I can imagine that it is so tasty and goes great with so many things.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rose.I really appreciate your opinion.

      The paste is expensive but it's very intense and lasts a long time. I don't know if I even buy it once a year — probably less. The stuff I have now is so old it's starting to crystallize.

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  7. I LOVE the art. And YES the artist temparment, WHEN combined with awesome veganess!!!!!!!! The temparment part can go either way!!!!! We are around a LOT of it & sometimes I don't even want to KNOW the artist of something I hold dear for meeting them might make it less sacred if they are a total arrogant a**!!!!!!!

    But YOU. YOU are lovely and WE ALL WANT TO SEE YOUR ART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Now is the time!

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    1. Thank you for your enthusiasm and kindness. It means a lot!

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  8. Wow, Andrea, your art is beautiful! I especially love the bird house. I also loved your story about your first showing. :)

    We had umeboshi paste once upon a time, but I can't recall what we used it in. I'd like to try this dressing. It sounds fantastic!

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    1. Thanks Molly! The birdhouse was painted for a fund-raising auction so I don't have it anymore. I wonder if it was placed outside and what it looks like now. :)

      I love umeboshi!

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  9. Your art is so fantastic! I really like the "about time" one. Though I do know the feeling of responding to that with "oh, eh, yeah...." and unbelieving. But truly it is, thanks for sharing it with us.
    The dressing sounds great and totally versatile. Really, really should pick up some umeboshi soon.

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    1. Thanks! The collage pieces are all cut from advertisements of watches and clocks from NY Times Magazines, especially the watch advertisement issue that comes out before Christmas. It's the only use out of those watches I'll ever get.

      The dressing works great on bowls of things, esp. beans, grains and greens. But don't bother with the lemon and sweetener — use it straight!

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  10. "Salad dressings can be very anonymous, but this one stands out and refuses to be overlooked."
    Well, like it or not, I think your art is rather like your umeboshi-tahini dressing! :-) I am most impressed with your Jim Croce portrait and most smitten with your delightful birdhouse!! (And you know I enjoy wearing your "Vegan For Life" artwork on my tshirt!) :-)
    I've never had umeboshi. Not something I've ever found here, and am not willing to order any online just now for budgetary reasons. But someday... I'd try your dressing in a heartbeat!

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    1. Thank you!
      I hope you get to try umeboshi — maybe when you move to Colorado. :)

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  11. Beautiful art! I can relate to your "exposure" anxiety, but I'm glad you shared your work with us. Our backyard birds are knocking on the window asking for a few of your colorful bird houses :)


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    1. Thank you. I knew you'd appreciate my anti-public anxiety. I wish I could have kept the birdhouse but it was painted for an auction fundraiser and I didn't see it auctioned so couldn't bid. Not that I would have. :)

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  12. Oh you poor thing, I can imagine I would feel the same way if I was an artist :)

    And while I have never tried umeboshi, that dressing looks delicious!

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    1. I have terrible stage fright and it extends to all areas of public displays. I wear a lot of black. :)

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  13. I've always wondered what to do with umeboshi, and now I have an excuse to pick some up! this dressing sounds right up my alley.

    I really like your work- "It's About Time" looks amazing! I can understand your apprehension. I used to be the same way about my writing. Writing about food is one thing, but writing fiction or something more serious and showing it to someone always embarrassed the heck out of me. Blogging is definitely helping with that! :-)

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    1. Thanks so much. About writing — I would have to use a pseudonym, I'm sure. I never even used to tell anyone I wrote this blog — it used to be much more anonymous.

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  14. Amazing work Andrea! I like all of them! Your cooking is also artistic.

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    1. Thanks, Katrina. Are you wondering how I know it's you?

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  15. I love that bird house, Andrea! I totally understand your feelings regarding your work. I often feel the same way, even though I am not painting but writing. (And it's not even art. It's just scientifical stuff.)

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    1. Thanks! Writing is just as hard to share as painting. And I think good technical writing IS an art!

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  16. What!? You are absurdly talented in realms I couldn't have even fathomed. Bravo, Andrea!

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    1. You exaggerate, my dear, but thank you!

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  17. I love bright colours in art...I think that people who use bright colours are showing us something wonderful about their personalities. Thank you for the great dressing recipe. We are in early spring here in Tasmania Australia but summer tends to jump you when you least expect it and salads and delicious dressings are my go to meal when the sun is trying to burn out my retina's. Again, thank you for sharing your beautiful vibrant artistic endeavours and that promising recipe :)

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    1. Thanks for your comments about art. I hope you're right! :)

      I hope you get to try and enjoy the dressing — I'll think of you out in the summer sun when I start to feel cold from the damp winter weather.

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  18. What brand of umeboshi paste do you use?

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