It’s 3pm and raining now. I feel like Hayden’s here in the room. It’s been long time. Maybe it hasn’t. Maybe I just haven’t been present to it. If I’m honest, staying present has been difficult lately. The season has turned over so fast, it’s like I woke up this morning and the trees are just now suddenly green, tulips are blistering at their ends, and the garden has creeped back to life. Before you left, you pointed out the one tree in the back alley that is holding out. It’s naked and just barely budding while her sisters are already flanked and beaming. In my mind, I’ll pretend it has been waiting for me to stop spinning, settle my mind, and catch up to the miracle that is this season. I hate when you’re gone but I loved how quiet things were today. I’ve needed it, desperately.
When I am silent, I have thunder hidden inside. – Rumi
Spring On a Plate
This recipe is for my mom whose beauty is matched only by her grace, passion, and strength. I am nothing without your love. Happy Mother’s Day. You are my sun and moon and all of my stars.
Bring a small pot of water to boil. Shell the garbanzo beans and blanche in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water. Set aside. Preheat oven for 350.’ Cut potato into small wedges and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and send them to a hot oven to roast for 20 minutes. Remove tough ends of asparagus, thoroughly yet delicately clean and remove roots from ramps, and cut stalks of rhubarb in half and then slice length wise into 3 smaller strips. Place in the basin of stone or glass baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and a dash of salt/pepper. Place on the available rack in the oven and bake for the remaining time on the potatoes (+/- 10 minutes).
In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, and lemon with the minced fresh herbs. Pour herb-y yogurt onto a large serving platter. Spread with a spatula to create a yogurt bed. Arrange vegetables on top of the yogurt to your liking. Garnish with watercress, blanched garbanzo beans, a sprinkle of bread crumbs, and a halved medium-boil egg.
March 17th last year was day three of our ten day trek on the Torres del Paine circuit. Some of you weren’t with us last year when we took a hiatus to Patagonia, Chile. I made Pisco Sours when we came home. In any case, we had put in 20km that day and looked ahead at a challenging summit early the next morning. Shaun made camp by the lake of Los Perros Glacier, pitching the tent as I propped up my swollen feet against the tree from where I started putting up the hammock and stopped halfway. I draped the hanging portion of the hammock over my face and listened to the moaning and creaking of the glacier, waiting every 15 minutes or so to hear large, school bus sized chunks of ice dislodge and crash into the water below.
Shaun came over to where I lay comatose and finished my hammock job. I crawled in and tried not to think about food. We had underestimated our calorie needs for the trek and were on a tight ration of freeze-dried meals, oatmeal, and cliff bars for the remaining 100 kilometers. The two books and journal I had brought haunted me. I would have given my left arm to have swapped them for a jar of peanut butter when we left the hostel in Puerto Natales four days prior. I rocked over on my right side in the hammock to survey the area as other hikers limped in for the night. A splattering of white sticks at the base of a tree at the next campsite over came into focus. DEAR GOD, IS THAT SPAGHETTI? With a sudden burst of energy I rolled out of the hammock and motioned for Shaun to join me at the base of the tree. Sure enough. Dried spaghetti exploded across the roots in the dirt as if someone yesterday had been standing there and ripped open the package too quickly. One by one we collected the pasta like a game of pick-up-sticks, careful to keep the larger pieces intact before delicately placing them in my beanie. We crouched by our tent for an hour brushing off the dirt before boiling a pot of water, cooking it, and adding it to our allotted packet-meal for the night.
That bizarre, desperate, and humbling moment is everything to me. It is the most mortifying and perfect reminder we often just need one person to be with us in the amber of the moment and bear witness to our existence. Someone to sit with us in the dirt after a long day to sort through the muck and pick up the pieces of our lives and make something good of it. A hug, a look, a gesture that silently says… I hear you, I see you, and I’m right here with you. I’m pretty psyched on the fact that the person who eats spaghetti from the forest floor with me in times of famine is the person I get to call partner and “husband” for the rest of my life. And if we’re lucky enough to have a partner, sibling, parent, or friend who doesn’t back away from the vulnerable, ugly, and often lopsided parts of our journey, we should be bold enough to say thank you loudly and often. There is no work more important, in my opinion, than to accept this love and learn to share it with as many people as we can muster. It is the only work to be done in this lifetime, really. We go through our years busy-ing ourselves with work and pleasure and community, yet despite it all, we still often feel so darn alone. We must reach for one another, constantly. We have to try and crouch together, we have to try to laugh, to listen, to cry, to bear witness to each other’s lives… they are affirmations to our humanity and our deep and fundamental longing to know and be known. I’m pretty young in the scheme of things and probably don’t know much about much, but this is what I believe: we were put here to hold on and hang in there, together. We’re here to seek each other and support and try our merry best to humble ourselves to the madness that is being alive together at the same time, rolling the dice, getting creative with hands outstretched to make the best of the whole thing.
Lemon Herb Ricotta Agnolotti
Big hugs to my friend Bre Graziano, Italian food guru through and through, with the creation of this recipe.
3 cups fresh ricotta cheese, homemade or purchased
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup chopped fresh chervil
juice of 2 lemons
2-3 tbsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon semolina flour, plus more for dusting
4 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
pea shoots and fresh herbs for garnish
olive oil for cooking
juice of 3 lemons
1 stick of butter
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, herbs, lemon juice, egg and salt/pepper until thoroughly combined. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl or clean, flat work surface combine the flour with the salt, nutmeg and the 1 tablespoon of semolina. Create a well in the flour and crack eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth, drizzle with olive oil, then continue with your hands to mix the oil and eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined. As Jamie Oliver says “with a bit of work and some love and attention they’ll all bind together to give you one big, smooth lump of dough.” Wrap the dough in plastic and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and cover with plastic wrap while you work with one quarter at a time. Flatten the dough ball and dust with flour. Roll the dough through pasta machine at the widest setting. Fold the dough in thirds (like a letter), then run it through the machine at the same setting, folded edge first. Repeat the folding and rolling once more. Roll the dough through at successively narrower settings, two times per setting, until it is thin enough for you to see the outline of your hand through it. Lay the dough out on a work surface lightly dusted with flour and trip the edges so they are straight.
Fill a ziploc bag (or piping bag if you’re fancy like that) with ricotta filling. Pipe filling across the bottom of the pasta sheet in a straight, even line. Pull the bottom edge of the pasta up and over the filling. Seal the agnolotti by carefully molding the pasta over the filling and pressing lightly with your index finger to seal the edge of the dough to the pasta sheet. Set aside, cover with a towel, and continue until you’ve used up your dough. You will probably have filling leftover! Double the dough recipe or use the filling for later.
In a large saucepan, melt butter with lemon juice and olive oil over low-medium heat. Cook agnolotti in batches for 5 minutes at a time, using a spoon to drizzle pasta with hot liquid to cook evenly. Serve immediately with fresh herbs, pea shoots, and a bit of leftover Parmigiano-Reggiano
I saw your comment come through last week on my lunch break and I haven’t stopped thinking about you since. When asked, you shared that you intend stand in your truth this year by holding fast to the understanding that you don’t need to have your whole life after college completely planned out, that you can just take it step by step. Oh Sarah, I wish I could stand sideline giving high-fives and waving my pom-pom’s about to cheer you on through this phase and in this truth. A year ago I stood in some version of your shoes, looking ahead to the future with confidence and eagerness and a whole lot of WHOA, WHAT NOW swirling in my belly. As you begin to close this big chapter of your life, here is what I want you to know… you’re not alone. This month and every month henceforth there will be women graduating college, giving birth to their first children, changing jobs, moving to different countries, suffering great loss, celebrating small victories, and will be, in sum, simultaneously in the process of discovering the person they are meant to become, the work they are here to do on this planet, and what in the heck it’s all going to look like.
The truth is, plan or not, the next year of your life, and life after college at large, will look nothing and everything like you could possibly imagine. I had trouble sleeping the night before we started our trek in Patagonia last month so I got out of bed before dawn and sat on the floor in the powder-blue tiled bathroom of Maria’s Hostel, cutting my nails, counting and reflecting upon the memories and mistakes of the past year. I leaned against the door and stared at the fluorescent light overhead and wondered what God was thinking in that moment. Silence. Taped next to the sink a printed sign “no lave la ropa – do not wash the clothes.” I had to laugh. If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be sitting on the floor of a bathroom in Chile in the kind of mental, physical, spiritual state I found myself experiencing, I would have thought they were out of their freaking mind. This is to say, the next year will be more outrageously beautiful and thrilling and fulfilling than you could hope. It will also challenge you to dig in to the deepest, most sacred parts of your soul to stay true to who you are and to fight through all sorts of exhaustion, loneliness, and missed turns.
You will meet many teachers. Some of them will come to you carrying the light. They are the universe’s way of telling you that you are powerful and beautiful and full of so much potential. They will hold you up like buoys when you get tired during the big swim. They will usher and encourage you to see and take paths that will help you stretch and grow and develop into the woman you’re meant to become. Some teachers will come into your life throwing big punches, they are, what an old friend used to call “the darkies.” They will make you wrestle with your idea of right and wrong and good and bad and test you, persistently, to hold on to yourself. You will duck and miss the blows most days but sometimes you’ll forget about the hook shot and you’ll be on your back seeing stars. It’s okay. This is all part of it. The toughest teachers will be the ones that look like they’re carrying the light, but are carrying something else. They will present you with some pretty sweet sounding opportunities and lifestyles. There will be a split-second lightning bolt feeling you’ll get in your chest when you first meet these teachers that sets you at dis-ease. Latch on to that! Remember this feeling. It is your intuition whispering to stay centered, stay true. Dig into those deep reserves of strength and surround yourself with those who love you unconditionally. They’ll remind you to not take the bait.
Try new things. Put yourself in environments and situations that push on the tender spots of your heart. Look hard. Listen hard. Watch the way people live and love. Be an observer of everything around you and all that you feel. When you are paying attention, the right paths and the “plan” for which you were put here to charge will be revealed to you. Try to block out the noise of “shoulds” that society or your tribe has prescribed for you. It’s your journey. Write it in YOUR pretty colors. As for a career, you very well may find yourself graduating with a degree in International Politics or Advanced Mathematics and taking a job at a grocery store stuffing tortellini in plastic cups for ten bucks an hour. It’s okay. That phase will be part of your becoming. In those places you will learn the dignity of hard work, the true meaning of community, and expand the breadth of your compassion for all people and all things.
You will laugh a lot. There will be days when all it takes for the wind to blow across your face a certain way and you will be moved to tears with gratitude for all that is. You will cry a lot. There will be nights where the questions and the confusion and the unknown will completely swallow you whole. You will make great choices, you will make really shitty choices. They all matter. When you find yourself in situations or relationships or places that in your gut you know to be pulling you away from who you are, find the courage to leave them. When you find yourself in situations or relationships or places that you know in your gut to be right and whole, find the courage to stay. Even if you’re scared to death. Joan Didion says, “we have to choose the places we don’t walk away from.” Sometimes it will be easier to run than it is to stay. It’s up to you.
If you want to see the world, do it. Nothing is stopping you. Go out and hear the bells ring on steps of Spanish Cathedrals, meditate in a Shinto temple, offer flowers and your secrets to the River Ganges, ride a bike in the rain through the farms of central Vietnam. If you feel called to go then go. You must. Remember too, though, that you don’t need to fling yourself across the globe to shift your perspective. A new place doesn’t change your life. You change your life. You will, at every moment of the next year, have the extraordinary gift of choice to redirect your sails. I will not look back on the past year and see our pilgrimage to Patagonia as the catalyst for closing chapters and starting new ones. I will see a girl sitting in the shower, weeks before mountains and rivers and glaciars with no tears left to cry, letting the water rush over her shoulders and taking the responsibility, FINALLY holding herself accountable, and deciding that she wanted things to be different in her life. Once I truly believed myself capable, a million answers to the million questions I had asked for months on end seemed to appear on the tub ledge, mine for the taking and making. Patagonia didn’t give me that. I gave me that. And you can, and will, too.
I quit my grocery store gig when I got back from Chile, almost a year after leaving San Diego and playing my first hand. I am grateful for what was, but time that I set intentions in my heart and to the people I love to be a better partner, better friend, and to set free alllll the lessons and teachers and triumphs and setbacks to make space for new ones. My truth, today, is different than it was last year and I know it will be different in six months, a year, and every year for the rest of my life but like you, I know that I can take it all step by step. Today if I meet someone at a coffee shop or the lobby of the DMV and they ask me what I “do” I will say I am a writer. I have no idea what that means, really, at least in the tangible sense, but I know just saying it out loud will help manifest my truth. I know that when you are brave and you are honoring of yourself and others, the world gets all sneaky and wonderful on you, wrapping you up in it’s arms to celebrate and support you to keep on. Hold on to those moments. Lap them up. Roll around in them and know that YOUR plan, and the kind of earnestness and passion it will take to discover, is perfect.
Go get ‘em Sarah. You’re right, you don’t need your life planned out after college. Stand in your truth and know that I am here, we are ALL here, doing cartwheels for you and the journey ahead.
Roasted Spring Vegetable Quinoa Salad
1 ½ cups quinoa (dry)
6 small beets
6 radish bulbs
1 large head fennel, fronds reserved
1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, diced
¼ cup minced chives
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
3 plump lemons
½ cup + 3 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Bring 3 cups and a few extra tablespoons of water to a boil. Cook quinoa over medium heat for 15-18 minutes or until water is absorbed and the seed has germinated. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 400.’ Rigorously wash the beets and radishes, as you will not be peeling them before roasting. Remove grimy tops and cut beets and radishes into fourths, then sixths or 8ths. You want large-ish, yet bit sized wedges. Cut fennel bulb in a similar fashion, top to bottom. Toss wedges of radish, beets, and fennel together with olive oil and salt in a parchment lined sheet pan. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, turning veggies over to brown and soften on all sides.
In a large mixing bowl, combine chopped parsley, chives, diced red onion with cooled quinoa. In a small jar prepare the dressing by combining ½ cup olive oil, juice of 3 whole lemons, salt, pepper, and minced garlic cloves. Shake to combine.
Add roasted vegetables to the quinoa mixture. Stir in dressing to coat. Garnish with sprinkling of fennel fronds to finish.
To my complete amazement, Happyolks has been selected this year as a finalist in Saveur Magazine’s Food Blog Awards in the Best Cooking Blog category. It is humbling, thrilling, and outrageously affirming to stand next to friends and mentors in this. Truly. If you like an underdog story, head over and cast your vote for us by Friday, April 19.
There is a freight train of words and unfinished sentences inside me, pressing against my chest. It’s past midnight. I sit in the dark at Shaun’s desk wearing his black coat with the hole on the right arm. My feet are cold and I have to be at work in four hours but I feel like if I don’t write, right now, I will continue to feel paralyzed by the quicksand that has become of my brain. I stopped trying to be perfect a few months ago and in the absence of it’s restraint there is now this hole, a vacuum for new ideas, new people, and new experiences to flood its place. Everyone (myself included) talks about how liberating it is to follow your bliss, let go, be free, and to abandon expectations, but what nobody talks about is how fucking insane it can make you feel in the process. There are moments, like earlier tonight, when I am brushing my teeth or folding laundry when and I have to look down at my hands or touch my sacrum to remind myself that I’m still here. I’m still Kelsey. It’s borderline-terrifying when you look in the mirror and can’t recognize the person looking back at you. I’ve done so much thinking over the past few months that I swear to God it’s like I thought myself away from and out of my body.
There is a bench outside of my workplace that I spend most of my breaks. You’ll find me there these days watching people pass on their bikes, listening to the howls of the pool table at the bar across the street. It is my designated non-thinking bench. Really, it’s come to this. A place for fifteen minutes of peace from my own existence. Don’t think. Just sit. Just be. Just breathe here. Of course this non-thinking rule lasts for a whole minute until my phone blinks and reminds me that I have avoided more than a half-dozen phone calls from family and friends whose love and patience I probably don’t deserve right now. I remember the pile of bills and payment warnings from mid-summer blood tests sitting on my desk, a half-emptied suitcase from my last trip home, and the $13.00 library fine that restricts the release of my college diploma. These are all just things. Little things. Little things that mirror my high-speed chase away from all the calm, away from what could actually help me reach a finish line, a resolution, or at least a reset button. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Is it possible that I’m cultivating a mess in my temporal, phsyical world just to match or trump the spiritual warfare that’s going on within? Yes. Probably. Crazy. Who does that? Crazy people. Break out the DSM-IV, Mom.
I met a woman the other day at a party. I was immediately drawn to her energy because she held herself with the kind of ease and confidence that I have so often craved to make constant in my own state of being. You know these kind of women, or, at least, the idea of these kind of women. The kind who wear old jeans and whispy bohemian blouses with their perfectly messy hair. They practice yoga, are genuinely kind to everyone, unflustered by common commotion of human existence, and ready at a moments notice to jump into the ocean completely naked. You know exactly who I’m talking about, right? There are these that come in and out of our lives that we see and know and think, God, you make it look so easy. Anyway. This woman. At the party. I listened to her talk and watched her move and realized that I WAS her. All those things I saw that felt so far away in that moment lived inside of me, too. The utter madness and dislocation I feel when I look in the mirror is part of the same woman who laughs until she nearly pees her pants, cries when lady bugs land on her arms, travels fearlessly through foreign lands, gives amazing hugs, believes love will change the world, eats cake for dinner, and sings Julie Andrews ballads at the top of mountains so even the goats can hear just how happy she is to be alive. Anyway, I’m realizing that I don’t crave being her, the woman at the party, I crave being more of myself.
I’ve been cooking. A lot, actually, through all of “this.” I’ve made chocolate chip cookies four times from the same recipe and tried, at each go, to melt with that same buttery pot of comfort back into my own skin. I got closer every time, you see. Really. I should probably keep making them.
All of this. These words. These midnight ramblings might be (probably are?) best kept locked in a folder on my desktop for a later date. Something I can look back on when I’m wise and gray and think, whoa girl, that was a dark place. But I’m going to release them here. Be free, words. Be free, mess. This is what a mess looks like, if you weren’t sure yet. I imagine you have had, seen, or felt, or dug through your own and had a panic moment somewhere in the process that you were straight up bat-shit crazy. You’re not. Well maybe you are, but we all are. You’re human. We’ve got this brain, a million sets of choices and paths to take and a thousand different ways to imagine what it will, can, or should all look like. I’ve gotta believe we all go through this, these WHO AM I, WHAT AM I DOING HERE, WHY AM I ALWAYS GETTING IN MY OWN WAY cycles of questioning. I’m standing at the brink of 23 and part of me thinks it would be crazier if I wasn’t experiencing some sort of existential reckoning. Right? Right.
I’m in it. Here. Now. Perfectly okay and perfectly not. I will come back to me. I will. I imagine I’ll be grabbing the mail one day and look up to the sky, feel the sun on my face, and see it all so clearly. Until then, I’ll be here, holding fast like an anchor in the storm and facing forward to all that this place has to teach me.
Butternut Squash and Farro with Honey Harissa Dressing
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (and hey, guess what, I’m giving away a copy on facebook!)
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 1/12 cup uncooked farro
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 honeycrisp apple, unpeeled and diced
1/2 cup pine nuts
Lug of olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp mint, julienned
1 Lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp harissa powder
Preheat the oven to 400.’ Start with the squash. Peel and prep and cube the dude and lay out flat onto a well loved baking sheet with a douse of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or more until the edges are just browned. Meanwhile, bring the veggie or chicken stock to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add the farro, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Strain and set aside for later.
For the dressing, combine liquids first: olive oil, citrus juices, and honey. Stir in cumin and harissa vigorously before adding the shallot and herbs. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine cooked farro, roasted squash, pine nuts, and the freshly diced apple. Cover with dressing and gently toss before serving.