“And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”
― Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt, I asked myself the same question this morning. I poured myself some coffee, looked at my squash and tomato starts on the kitchen counter, safe from the snow coming down more violently than usual outside, and thought for a moment that all of the present — the deep, the shallow, the long, the short, the good, the bad, the snow, the sun — is all mine, and ours, to keep.
Whole Wheat Belgian Waffles with Mascarpone, Thyme, and Strawberries
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk or milk alternative
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, separated
1 orange, zest and juice
1 pint fresh strawberries
20 springs fresh thyme
1-2 cups mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup honey, plus more for finishing
Melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan, set aside. In a small bowl, mix and dissolve the yeast. In a larger bowl, combine salt and flour. Whisk together the yeast-water, milk, butter, egg yolks, and honey and combine with the dry ingredients. In another small bowl, beat the egg whites (like a crazy woman) until frothy. Fold into batter with 1/2 cup mascarpone, zest of half the orange, and leaves of 10 springs of thyme. Set aside, covered, for 10-20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200′. Turn on your waffle iron to medium-high heat. As it warms, cut strawberries into slices or quarters in a bowl. Mix with extra honey, the remaining thyme, and the juice and zest of your small orange. Set aside.
Grease your heated iron with butter or coconut oil. Pour a heaping cup of the batter and cook until golden and crispy on the outer edges. Transfer waffles to the oven to keep warm and repeat with remaining batter. To serve, smear with marscapone and top with a heap of gussied strawberries and a drizzle of honey.
I have started one thousand sentences in my mind telling you what I have seen and felt and tasted in Patagonia. Nothing is working. The Andes whispered to me potent, precious secrets that helped me remember my human aliveness and mended my exasperated spirit. It occured to me just now that they are secrets that still need keeping. Secrets to hold fast in my belly and pray on, to take out and set on the counter to look at and ponder, to play with and practice and live in the best way I know how. In the 140k we hiked and climbed and cried upon I said thank-you a million times, prostrated on my knees to glaciers, rivers, forests, the sun, the moon, the stars and knew that those million thank-you’s would never be enough for what the place and time were giving.
Sitting at the kitchen table weeks later to write you, thousands of miles traveled to and from this spot in the interem, I sense that everything is the same and yet everything is different. My soul works from the same physical body, I drink my coffee from the same chipped cup. In between what I can see and what I can feel though, life is changing. Memories and mistakes sit together on the mantle now next to the old California license plates and the empty vase that I’d like to fill with daffodils this afternoon. They are invisible masterpieces cherished, forgiven, and understood only by we who know the brokenness and beauty it took to create them.
I urge you to go out, far from home, and find the secrets waiting for you too. They are, as Walt Whitman says, more divine and beautiful than words can tell.
Pisco Sour, three ways
Pisco is a (typically) colorless grape brandy produced in Chile and Peru. It is the star of what both countries claim as their national cocktail, the Pisco Sour. In Puerto Natales, the closest township to Torres del Paine where we trekked, we met a young man who when asked about the Pisco Sour closed his eyes, touched his chest and said, “Ah, my Pisco, when you drink it you will feel a light your soul.” I happen to think he’s right, but the time and place seemed to have unusually persuasive powers. I have three takes on the Pisco Sour for you here today. The original, the de Campo with honey and ginger, and one to bookmark for summer with fresh mango and Seranno peppers. Each recipe serves one. Blend ingredients together until the ice is completely crushed and the mixture frothy. Serve in an old-fashioned glass with friends. Can be doubled, tripled, etc. and served family style.
When I start a copywriting assignment with a new client, the most important question I ask to get to know them is “where are you, what are you doing, and who are you with when you most feel like yourself?” They often smile, get a little quiet, and start to tell a story. Somewhere they visited, Saturday rituals at home… little details that reveal their personality and perspective. It’s more anthropological experimentation than it is helpful writing tool. Often, how they answer this question is entirely different than the manner in which they answer all the others. They haven’t prepared for this sort of prompt, so they have a chance to share in their sincerest form. How interesting is it that?
Using the exercise on myself, I become overwhelmed with a deep and exhilarating sense of peace and understanding as I am instantly transported to a time and space where things were just as they should be. When I find myself drifting off course or am sorting through serious life decisions, I try to practice this mediation. It has a funny way of bringing my head and heart back into alignment when the wires get crossed or cut. I’ve recently come to think of it as my “happiness compass.” Ultimately, when we are able to live out the truest, most authentic versions of ourselves, we can be the most happy.
I think so often we get caught up in creating an idea of happiness that we look too far outward, forward to things and elaborate ideas that will slingshot us out of a current state of fatigue, frustration, fear, etc. While I totally think happiness is something you can and should work to manifest, in times of uncertainty, it is best guided by the reminders living inside us all.Memories can’t provide direct answers for our troubles, but the process of remembering may lull the voices, our own and otherwise, that may be pulling/pushing us into a direction that leaves us feeling unsettled. It creates space for us to truly consider all that we know to be true, trust all that is yet to be taught, and go forward with a sense of empowerment to just be. It brings everything back to center. There may be chaos, there may be distraction, there may be consternation… but in our own answer, there can be stillness. And that is enough.
So I ask you this question, today…
Where are you, what are you doing, and who are you with when you most feel like yourself?”
Close your eyes. Listen. Let those places, people, spaces wash over you and fill you with love and light.
Feel free to shred, julienne, or dice anything your heart desires for these guys — spring rolls are incredibly versatile. I’ve mixed soft greens, crisp cabbage, and creamy avocado to diversify the texture. Add or subtract herbs as desired. Play with the sauce to your liking too, I spotted it in the magazine and knew it had potential.
And… get this: Happyolks has a free app for iPhone. Um, What!? Speaking of things that remind us who we really are, my incredible/handsome/kind little brother spent the semester in one of his engineering courses developing it for us. Hugs to Austin for his hard work. Download it from the App Store and check for updates and new features as the year progresses.
Submerge a single spring roll wrapper in a bowl of hot water until completely pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove, and gently set on a flat surface. Layer with cabbage, escarole, avocado, and herbs. Construct a roll like a burrito; start with the bottom and cover the horizontal line of veggies. Fold in both sides and press to seal. Roll up tightly to the top and seal the edge. Set aside. Repeat.
For the sauce “Place all ingredients plus 1/4 cup water in a resealable container. Cover and shake vigorously until well combined.”