change

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I’m not going to act like everything is okay.

There’s a lot to this time of year. People want cheer and peace and giving. And while there will be a lot of that, there is also a lot of fear. I suppose, if you grew up in a Christian faith as I did, the season is what it is due to a family fleeing for safety. There’s a lot of fear in fleeing.

Not just that, there’s just a lot going on, right? I think I feel people collectively tense up around mid-November and they don’t stop until Mid-January — the heavy realization that you just made a resolution you’re not going to keep.

I like the idea of going easy on yourself. Again. And again.

It takes a while to change. If that’s what you want from  yourself. Physically, emotionally, etc. Then again, if you like who you are, then perhaps you’re going to be just fine.

Only I’m not. I’m not okay. I’m not okay with the way things are and neither are you, I suppose.

I’ve never felt like I’ve wanted to be more ignorant in my life. I realize that sounds harsh. But there are a lot of people saying a lot of things out there and I’m one of them. I also think I’d be okay if I never saw another news feed or flash about guns and refugees and politicians. It’s a hard thing. These are things that are triggering our nasty parts. The parts we disagree with our parents and friends on — this is the hard part of change, big world.

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You’re going to disagree. And I’m even past the point of “Hey, as long as we disagree well, right!” — like that ever really works. It’s never worked in my head. I still think the other person is acting like an asshole and they think the same about me.

So I guess the point of me writing all this is to challenge you and to also challenge myself. You’re going to be around a lot of different people this time of  year who happen to be relatives. Y’all will be coming in from different places — life places — philosophical places and something will probably be said.

I’d like to say, that if you can, be good. But also, be honest if you don’t understand. I’m pretty sure we all love one another, but that doesn’t mean we have to tip toe around each other. It is important, like St. Francis said, to understand, rather than be understood. I think that’s helpful.

Even if I don’t agree, I’d at least like to understand why you feel a certain way. I think that’s for real. And I think that’s sort of when change happens. You take a little bit of the other side with you. You are still you and believe who you are, but you also take some other stuff with you, to think and chew on.

I will walk in this season with a lot. I would hope that I’d bring some peace with me, even as outspoken as I can be at times. I want us to be better, because the world is changing and moaning and we can hear her louder than ever.

Feel what you need to this season. Whether that’s pain or joy, regret or gratitude, because it’s real and it’s you and we need you to keep going with us. To keep running and to keep us running when we can’t.

I am thankful for other people. Regardless of how they wound others and how we wound them. Carry around some peace this season, maybe some patience, too. For me. As I try to understand things as you see them, too.

Happy Thanksgiving — eat and love and listen well

 

boundaries.

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I feel like I may be living off fumes a bit.

I’m trying.

I am.

To be present, to live deeply into something. But I feel as though I may be falling short. A roommate of mine gets sick, and I drive to Fred Meyer for a tea I think will help her from throwing up all night.

I don’t think too much about it in the moment, only that I want to help her feel better, and living with a group of people who are quite independent, we are often left to take care of ourselves in the midst of others busy (read: “busy”) lives.

Something that breaks my heart, is to see how far we’ve come to lose track of the ones we should be fighting for. My only hope is that one day, what I put into the Beloved will come back to me. I’m sure there is a practice for this. Some folks maybe call it karma, but I do it, regardless if I get it back.

I took a walk yesterday, to clear my head of some post-Thanksgiving blues, where each place I sat to eat felt a little scary and unsettled. I needed to regroup.
I sat in a park and watched a dog chase a ball. Back and forth. This dog, loved this ball. And its owner, who I’m sure has so much love for his animal.

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I fight every day, questioning what’s important in this little bit of life I’ve been given here. How selfish do I need to be? How defensive and how many boundaries do I place around my heart? How do I begin to answer those questions?

There is much to say about giving.

(and I suppose the same goes for taking.)

I know in different seasons I will do my fair share of both.

I guess that’s what I’m thinking about today. It’s what hurts. Learning how to weather a downpour or two when the time comes. You’ll never really be ready.

This is a season of learning what I need.
I realize that might sound selfish. But I know a lot of what I need, is what you need. (And some things neither of us knew we needed.)

When you want to give so freely of yourself, it is important to create boundaries. But to have them retract and expand when you need them to. I feel like that takes work. No one wants to do it. But I feel, deep down, its importance.

It’s what I see when I dream.

When I put a plate down at your table.

When I let you in,

or put you on a pot of tea.

You are welcome to this. It is what I choose to give.

whoa.

it is what I choose to give.

 

 

 

 

 

Wrestling with the Current

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I want to give you another piece about food, because I feel like that’s what you’re here for.

But if I’m honest with myself, which is a fierce part of me these days, I’m thinking about a lot more.

The holiday season is upon us. Well, for us living here in the U.S.

Which means, well, a whole lotta work. Everywhere I look, I see this glimmer of what adults used to know and love. Because that honesty I feel deep down tells me these holidays will never feel like they used to. I think that can be a little sad for a lot of people. Especially those who are away from loved ones and crave those perfect moments filled with cinnamon rolls and bacon and maybe, a warm fire.

I am sad, because I was getting to a place where the holidays were becoming meaningful again. More than just presents, which to be honest, are a lot of fun. Let’s just say “giving gifts”. But as we all know, the gifts take a backseat, the older we get. At least to me they do. What I want is connection. To feel close. To feel caught up and loved and peaceful. That is something I never get tired of — something I crave, especially now.

I’m processing this now because I know what divorce and separation look like during the holidays. The absent body and the weight that body used to carry. There is a lot of sadness in a lost presence. Whether that is by loss of family members or friends, or a relationship that has run its course.

We are stimulated by the music and food and gifts. Rightfully so. They are lovely. But I know I will start to feel that weight in my belly. It will come on strong, like some undercurrent pulling me away from the safety of a shore.

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And I will have to let it take me.

For just a bit. I will wrestle with it and tug and release. I will ask it hard questions and not get anything back.

We are all fighting these battles on the inside. To know what is good and what is needed. And how that shifts in our own seasons. It’s okay to pull them out to examine.

“This is what my pain looks like!” I will exclaim.

And it will soften.

I remember, as a kid, those first holidays when your parents separate. There are hard questions you ask yourself. Questions I still ask myself and fumble around with. Where do I belong? And for how long? Exactly how much love do I deserve?

People will tell you the great love they have for you, but it’s really up to the person to accept those things in themselves. It’s an odd thing, our ability to be open for others relies on our own ability to love ourselves. Truly, I think. And I think sometimes that looks selfish to other people, but there is a great peace in loving one’s self, and to feel strong.

So this year, I want to work for that peace.

As Christmas’y as that might sound, it is important for me to start again.

Learning what it is I need, what tools I need to be light in the heaviness, and to once again feel connected to the world.

Because in a season where we are all finding and fighting for each other,

there is nothing more important than fighting to find yourself again.

root vegetable gratin (this is my life, now.)

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I really want a big hug.

One with not very many words, and that is warm and nourishing.

To avoid the risk of sounding too desperate, I will just say that what I need sometimes, is comfort in the form of food.
Not in the “I eat my feelings” type of way, but something beautiful and warm and satisfying.

At work this week, I ran back and forth in my head, trying to figure out a special that would showcase what’s available in this current season, or week, even. I’m thinking root vegetables or brussels sprouts. I was getting tired of lentils and polenta. Though they are two of my favorite starches, I fear I was beating them into the ground.

Everybody’s doin’ brussels sprouts right now. Fair enough. They are delicious and green and lovely. But I wanted something with more browns and yellows because I needed something to carry these pork cheeks I got in from our purveyor. Yes, lovely little medallions of pork cheek. Tough little muscles, when cooked slow and low in wine and mirepoix and herbs, create this luscious thing.

I love the word ‘gratin’. It makes me want to cuddle up in a blanket and watch a movie that’ll give me the warm and fuzzies. I guess maybe I’m odd in that kind of way.

When it hit me, there was no turning back.

So I got to work and immediately started peeling vegetables. Making vegetable stock, braising the pork cheeks. I checked a few recipes for gratin and got a general idea of what I needed to do. I mean, it’s one of the oldest things in the book. You’re not creating anything new, just continuing its story.

It was lovely.

Warm. Cozy. Browns and golds.

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So my friends, the weekend is upon us. I will be cooking for the likes of you, but you will be cooking for yourself, your families and probably friends. Try it. It makes good use of things that are in season, and are a lot more affordable than you think.

You’ll need:
An 8×12 baking dish. Or something close. Preferably glass, but metal is fine. And go ahead and preheat your oven to about 350.

2lb sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/8inch thick
2lb butternut squash, peeled, sliced 1/8inch thick (you’ll just be using the neck, but save the fatter part for another meal.)
2lb rutabaga, peeled, sliced 1/8inch thick
1/2-3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 sprigs thyme
a little wedge of parmesan reggiano (for grating)
salt and pepper
4TB good butter

Do this:

Take a TB of butter and rub it in the pan, all around. Up the sides. Get it all lookin’ real nice.
If you have a mandolin (read:death machine) use it, but I just used my sharp knife and worked a bit quicker. Basically, you want all the vegetables peeled and sliced before you get all of this going.

The bottom layer, lay down a nice spread of butternut squash, overlapping so there is no gap. (It’s seriously okay if there is. Just for presentation sake, overlap and make it look as legit as you can.)
Add a bit of salt and pepper. A light sprinkle of both, I guess I should say.

Add a layer of rutabaga, following the same process as the squash. Salt, pepper.
Add a layer of sweet potato, and well, you know how it goes.

Keep going until you run out.

After all your vegetables are snug and lookin’ good, go ahead and dump in your veg/chicken stock. If it looks like you need more, go ahead and add more. You want enough to coat the bottom of the pan. After that, throw down your thyme on top, somewhat spread out. Lay down the remaining tablespoons of butter over the top layer. Add more if you want, yo.

Wrap tightly with foil and toss it in the oven for an hour or so. Take it out, stick a knife in and if there is no resistance, you are good to go.
This is when you add your heavy cream. Eye this as well. If you think you need more, add it. But a little bit does go a long way. Also, freshly grate some of that parmesan cheese all over the top. Be generous.

Toss it back in the oven with the foil off for another 30 minutes, or until it’s all bubbly and brown and golden on top.

As you can see from my picture, it isn’t like Martha Stewart’s, but it’s rustic, which is okay, right?

Anyways, I really enjoyed it. It’s satisfying and rich and simple.

I guess, at the end of the day, I recognize that this is my life. Making food for others and myself.

I realize that in its simplicity, it is what keeps me going.

And for that, I am thankful.

sweet saturday post!

Food, Uncategorized

Well, it’s sort of a play on words.

I do want to talk about sweets — but only because I want you to be prepared for the season! [and because I love you.]

I realize it’s a Saturday and this blog post will get little to no views because you’re probably off doing something more important — but this was on my mind and I felt like writing a bit.

When the holidays come, there is always an influx in baking, at least in our little kitchen. The cravings of pumpkin and pecan and apple pies and cookies and good Lord — All these things start balling up in the ole’ ventral striatum (the “craving” part of your brain, so scientists say.)

It’s good to be prepared, they say. ‘They’  being people like me who have this compulsive ability to recognize what’s low in our kitchen. “What!? I’m down to two cups of flour! How did this happen!?” “Am I really already out of butter?”

Okay, I don’t freak out that bad. But, I love to have the things I need to bake and cook. I’ve been over this a dozen times and there’s never a need to beat a dead horse. NEVER.

So, you decide you want to start baking delicious holiday treats over the next month or two. There are some things that you need to have in your cabinet.

Flour. All-Purpose, Unbleached. Really, as long as you have baking powder and baking soda, you don’t need self rising.
Since mentioning it, baking powder and soda are CRUCIAL. Make sure they’re fresh because they can and will go bad on you. Keep it fresh…know what I’m sayin’? [If you’re a whole wheat fiend, feel free to do it that way.]

Sugar. Brown and white sugar. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know sugar is the real enemy here, but you can’t bake that legit stuff without it. Sure, you could use honey or agave, I guess, but we all know what you really want. If you’re baking with sugar, just use a little less or do a little half and half and see how it comes out. Use corn syrup at your own conviction. I use it when making pecan pie, along with molasses. Keep that around too. I love molasses.

Spice! Allspice, pumpkin spice (I guess…) cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and ground ginger.

Vanilla extract is huuuuge.

Eggs! Eggs are the great binder. They add fat and substance and a wonderful lift to your tasty bits. Keep them stocked. Keep them fresh. Bake with them at room temperature, if you can remember. Same with…

Butter! Unsalted. The better quality butter, the better the treat.

And always, a little salt. A little pinch of salt in your sweets will enhance the flavor. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what salt does. It brings out flavor. And it’s crazy. Crazy flavor.

Then, there are the various little bits you can keep in your pantry like: pureed pumpkin, pecans (various nuts), dried cranberries, chocolate chips, Combos and miniature Kit-Kat bars.

I hope this was somewhat helpful and if not, at least it was fun to write. Happy Saturday to you!