Crispy Onion Straws

Perfect for casseroles, burgers, or simply by themselves.


  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 cups non-dairy milk
  • 1 1/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp onion powder (as the onion flavor is taken away when soaked in the wet mixture)
  • 3 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 3 cups oil for frying

Whisk non-dairy milk and vinegar together to make a buttermilk mixture. Let sit while you cut your onion.

Using a mandolin, or a firm grip and a sharp knife, slice the onion into very thin almost see-through slices.

Soak the onions in the wet mixture for around 10-15 minutes in a shallow dish.

In a separate dish mix together all the dry ingredients. This will be the coating.

Heat your oil in a heavy pan. Grab a handful of onions out of the wet mixture and slightly drain off before adding it into the flour mixture. Toss around until evenly coated and give a little shake before adding to the oil.

Keep a close eye on the onions as they shouldn’t take more than 3-5 minutes to crisp. Occasionally stir to make sure the onions aren’t attached.

Once fries to your desire use tongs to take the onions out and lay them on some paper towel to drain. Repeat the process until all onion is used.

Thinking About Gurus with Hari-Kirtana

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 5.44.22 PMSo, I’ve been fairly quiet this month. It’s been busy. Every time that I sit down to write a post or share a recipe, something else crops up. Sorry about that!

But, I have been writing and thinking, in part as a response to taking some advanced yoga training at Yogawood with Hari-kirtana das. As part of our homework from last month, we responded to his post In Defense of Gurus. What follows is my response (primarily to part one).

Philosopher and communication scholar Kenneth Burke once defined man as “the symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal, inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative), separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making, goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order), and rotten with perfection.”  I’ve always found this an apt description.

As humans, we can envision, in a way that (we assume) other animals can’t, what it would be like to be a perfect ______. We can also understand the concept of the negative (a dog does not think, “I am not a cat”). These two things together, along with a tendency to create hierarchy, drive us to want to be more, to achieve some pinnacle of success. What that success looks like is driven by the culture(s) that we inhabit, but it is generally linked with power.

The idea of a guru is a neutral idea; that is, it is not inherently bad or inherently good. We need teachers, regardless of what arena of life we are speaking of. Sometimes we call them mentors; sometimes we call them parents; sometimes we call them gurus. These individuals have more knowledge about something(s) than we do, which grants them a form of power. And power is not bad. All relationships have power differentials and all individuals in relationships have forms of power that they can draw on, whether it is informational power or formalized power or reward power, etc.

Today, sometimes the relationship between teacher and student is one driven by commerce. For example, school teachers must be paid in order to live to teach another day. But, we know that there are teachers (whether that is their formal title or not) who teach not primarily from the reason of making a living, but from a different driver – the wellbeing, growth, enlightenment, and progress of the student.

A guru, including but not limited to a yoga guru, who is acting from the motivation of contributing positively to the progress of the disciple can be a positive force in the individual’s life. I think this can be true even if that guru is not him/herself fully “enlightened,” but is still working on it (I get a little antsy about claims of enlightenment).

However, because we are so intelligent and complex, we also have the ability to misuse power.  Gurus who take that title (formally or relationally) for the purpose of self-aggrandizement, material gain, social/sexual power, etc. are not operating from a motivation of helping the disciple in his/her growth. And that is where things go wrong.

We – society – spend a lot of time worrying about whether XYZ has the potential to be used negatively (for example, if we inoculate teens against STDs, they will have more sex). The truth is, everything can be used in ways that promote the welfare of others or not. Even a toaster can become a murder weapon. We can’t just dismiss all the things/concepts that can be used negatively (because I like toast). We have to, instead, be aware of the positive and negative potentials.

Like for any other successful relationship, the relationship with a guru should be entered with an assumption of positive motives on the part of the other, with commitment to giving the relationship the attention and devotion it requires, and with an open-mind, yet with eyes open. Even then, it may not work out, but then again it may.



Right? Teaching Affirmation and Participatory Learning

Image by Conor Lawless

Many many years ago, when I first started teaching college courses, I developed a verbal tic. Having been involved in public speaking from middle school on, I very rarely would “um.” So, that wasn’t a problem for me.

However, I was uncertain about my ability to teach effectively. I also really wanted the students to participate in the class, but I feared the loss of control that occurs when there is a fully free-flowing discussion. These things together caused me to ask students, at the end of a sentence or explanation, “ok?” I really meant it, too. I meant, “Is this ok? Do you understand this? Are we on the same page here?” But, it quickly escalated to the point that I was saying it at the end of EVERY sentence and it was more of a verbal pause than anything else. It was a problem.

Eventually, I noticed myself saying “ok” repeatedly (I think it happened as I was grading student speeches and noting their verbal pauses), and I knew I had to get it under control. So, I started making it quieter, with some serious effort, until I was saying it primarily under my breath, and then concentrated on just shutting my mouth at the end of sentences. I am pretty sure I still said “ok?” in my head. That meant that I had to come up with other ways to engage students, and over time, I did.

Fast forward to recent years, when I started to teach yoga. Teaching yin, I don’t think it was an issue, because I had plenty of time to slowly work through what I was saying. But, after a while of teaching vinyasa classes, as a sub and then regularly, I realized that I had fallen into the same old habit, except with “right?” Again, it is because I mean it. I am asking the students to join me in this understanding of yoga philosophy or yoga benefits or asana practice ideas. So, I want to know… “Is this right, as far as you are concerned? Are you with me? Is this cool?” I really do want to know. Really.

But, there isn’t particularly a way/time for them to assent, even if they wanted to. They are busy, very busy, contorting their bodies to follow my instructions, keeping their focus on their breath, figuring out whether I really mean right when I say left. They don’t have time to provide me with affirmation or reduce my uncertainty, even if they wanted to. And, unlike in a communication classroom, I can’t replace that with a different dialogue like “Do you have any questions about X?,” because they are BUSY.

So, I’m working on it. I’m working on letting go of the need for them to affirm me in that way. I’m watching their bodies and faces to see if they are tracking what I’m saying rather than asking. I’m trying to focus on telling them what I believe and what I’ve seen and what I have read about yoga philosophy and theory and anatomy and physiology and letting them, in their own minds, decide whether it’s ok with them or I’m full of stuff and nonsense.

It’s a complicated dance and it is humbling to get a(nother) reminder that, even at 47 years of age, my need for approval remains strong. That urge to have others tell you that you are doing it right is intense!