“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. (Don’t Hesitate)”
― Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
Quick Pickled Vegetables over Herb-y Black Lentils
1 bunch tricolor radishes, quartered
1 cup pearl onions, halved
1 lb. baby carrots
2 cups cauliflower, broken into small pieces
1 bulb fennel, sliced
2 shallots, shaved
4 florets belgian endive, halved
4 cups white wine vinegar (or red wine, or rice)
4 cups water
1/4 cup mustard seeds
2 tbsp juniper berries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp salt
To make the pickling liquid: Place water and vinegar in medium pot along with sugar, juniper berries, salt, and mustard seeds. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar and salt. Place cleaned and prepped raw vegetables into the liquid and submerge. Cover and let cool to room temperature, place in refrigerator for 1 hour. Extra vegetables can be kept for up to two months. They make for great accouterments in a Bloody Mary!
For the Lentil Salad…
4 cups cooked black lentils (about 1 pound, dry)
1 cup watercress leaves
1 cup parsley leaves
1 cup celery leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup minced chives
2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt/pepper to taste
Cook lentils until al dente, about 30 minutes. Strain, rinse, and set aside. Mix with olive oil, lemon juice, and greens. Serve as a bed to the pickled vegetables. Dress with chives, serve cool, but not cold. Makes great leftovers for weekday lunches. Served mine today with lemon avocado aioli.
Today I’m partnering with The Giving Table, The Lunchbox Fund, and nearly one hundred other food bloggers to feed impoverished and orphaned schoolchildren in South Africa. We’re donating our posts and asking our readers to join us in raising (at least) $5,000 to provide a daily meal to 100 children for an a whole year. Children with empty tummies at school can’t achieve their full potential. With the collective help of our reader base, we hope to nourish minds, nourish a nation, and positively impact the planet.
Nicole Gulotta asked us to share a personal anecdote to plead the case of this fantastic cause, and while I will eventually get to that, I think it goes without saying that hunger at home and abroad is a problem that should take very little convincing to get behind. It is stunning and despicable to me that nearly 65 percent of all South African children are food insecure and that 1.9 million of those children are orphans as a result of HIV and AIDS. It is also unacceptable to me that 1 in 5 children here in the U.S, the so-called “greatest country in the world” live in a household that struggles to put food on the table. This would never be true of the “greatest” country in the world.
South Africa lives in a tender corner of my heart. In 2010 I lived on a small ship for five months with a few hundred students, professors, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu sailing across the Atlantic, around the horn of Africa, through the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, South China Sea, and finally back across the Pacific. On the days we weren’t at port he gave lectures on the history of his country, Apartheid, the meaning of Ubuntu, and spent his mealtimes fraternizing with young people in the mess hall. On one evening I remember sitting around a round table with six women and one guy, a phenom to Arch (what we called him affectionately), that merited he scoot from his table to ours. He looked at us, giggled, and proceeded to circle the perimeter, tapping our heads like a game of duck-duck goose until he reached our male friend, Nimish, and squealed “you lucky little bugger!” before skipping off. He is at once the fieriest and goofiest person I’ve been lucky to experience and my life is forever changed by his unwavering optimism for human goodness, capacity for love and forgiveness, and his belief that young people can change the world.
A lot of things get the man riled up, and hunger is one of them.
“I doubt if there is a single moment in our history when all human beings have had enough to eat. Even today, in a world where it is possible to communicate across thousands of miles… close to 1 billion men, women and children will go to bed hungry tonight around the world. Yet a lifetime of experience has taught me that there is no problem so great it cannot be solved, no injustice so deeply entrenched it cannot be overcome. And that includes hunger. Hunger is not a natural phenomenon. It is a man made tragedy. People do not go hungry because there is not enough food to eat. They go hungry because the system which delivers food from the fields to our plates is broken.”
Don’t let us grind you down. Dream. Go on for goodness sakes, dreaming. Dream, dream.
Dream the craziest dreams. They actually often are, God’s dreams.
I feel pretty confident that I know only a smidgen of what there is to know about this life and humans and our collective experience, but I know this: we can’t do it alone. Most of you will visit this site for the recipe, and perhaps the half that read this accompanying post will find themselves economically capable of donating to The Lunchbox fund, and that’s okay. We are all doing what we can, with what we have, and the time we get here. But I’m dreaming. I’m going to dream that 5000 Happyolks readers who will see this post over the next week will donate $10 and multiply The Giving Table’s goal by a factor of 10. Yeah. Crazy dreams. Whatcha think? Let’s do it.
Shaved Fennel Salad
6 medium-ish bulbs fennel
2 granny smith apples
1 red onion
1 cup parsley leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup watercress
½ cup sour cherries
½ cup shelled + chopped pistachios
juice of 1 navel orange
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp (plus a dash) sea salt
cracked pink pepper
With a mandoline, shave bulbs of fennel to ¼ inch thickness. Place in bowl and sprinkle with salt to soften. Set aside. Shave the onion and apples (with skin) on the same setting on the mandoline and set aside. Clean and remove leaves of watercress, parsley, and mint. Set aside.
Prepare the dressing by combining the juices of the orange and lemon, olive oil, plus salt, and cracked pink pepper. Toss together the fennel, onions, apples, parsley, mint, watercress, chopped pistachios, and sour cherries with the dressing.
We need more storms. The garden loves it and so does my spirit. When dark clouds build out West over the mountains I put a kettle on for afternoon coffee, throw open all the downstairs windows, and ready my reading chair with a book. Elizabeth Gilbert shared once in a TED talk how early cultures believed they had a genius, “a divine spirit that came from a distant and unknowable source,” that waited to pounce on people with “moments of brilliance… showing them new ways of doing things, bestowing new songs to their ears.” Gilbert described how the poet Ruth Stone often could look out, standing on the farm, and see a poem come barreling toward her over the landscape. It was chasing her, and she had to get up and run, as fast as she could, back to the house before it passed through her, blowing onward to find another poet. Ideas don’t always come sweeping over me with genius or brilliance or poetry, but I have found that if I sit and be present to a good storm, the thunder can shake loose new perspective in my heart that I usually need urgently, badly. Like Ruth, I have to be diligent and be waiting in the ready to capture that perspective fully.
And so, last week, I found myself wrapped in an old blanket in my reading nook, and tried surrendering to the energy of the storm. I was distracted about an earlier email from a reader that had left me unsettled and self-conscious about where I find myself pivoting from in this point of life. I know she meant well, truly, but her advice was somewhat bruising. I acknowledge and accept that by publishing parts of my life for the world to read, I make myself open to judgement and critique — both of which happen so rarely I feel silly even bringing it up — but it does reflect on the tricky business of having a blog. We, as writers, may feel a distinct and coherent story building month to month, year to year, but most often what our readers experience are “al a carte” moments, snippets of this phase and that. We, me, you, don’t always get the full picture. We can’t. And that’s okay. It’s not supposed to work like that. All that we are and all we believe cannot be packaged and delivered consistently in 1,000 words or less, so we chapter it all out, and continue, in earnest, to practice non-attachment and patience with those we invite into our lives (and living online spaces) — lives that are very much in-progress and under construction. This experience, of course, is magnified 10x in the flesh with strangers and friends and those we share toothpaste. But anyway…
My point in sharing this singular, harmless experience with a reader is to spotlight how, gulp, I too sometimes walk dangerously into the book of someone elses life, mid-chapter, and assume a level of authority or perspective based on the information I think I’m bearing witness to. Por ejemplo… Shaun and I have friends who have recently separated after a year of marriage and honestly I’ve been terribly hung up about it. Not about the divorce at large — as I don’t believe destinies or soulmates to be fixed things — but just about the loss on an energetic level for all of us young folk in love, angsty, and in becoming. There is a sense of sadness and realization on the whole, in life, not all good fights can be won… and it kinda blows. I look at these friends falling apart and see ALL of us falling apart, as we do, as we grow as individuals and in partnership and community. “No!!!” This was my knee-jerk reaction. ”Don’t let it break! WORK like fucking hell, friends! Relationships are hard!” It wasn’t until shaking the dust of that earlier email that I really realized how my consternation about the situation is entirely related to my own heart, my own struggles, and how when I look at these two beautiful people, wishing so desperately that “it all” could be fixed, I’m really just seeing the ways I want to fix myself. A bit of nemesism, really. And we do this, as humans, so often. We try to fix people as we would like to fix ourselves. We see our own lives mirrored back to us in the lives and choices and pain of others. We want them to be okay, we NEED them to be okay so we can be okay, too.
We see only what we see. Every day we get the opportunity to observe and take part in the lives of others, in the middle of their perfect and un-perfect chapters, with our opinions, often well-intentioned, knowing only what we know. I think it’s important, every single day, to try and step back and ask ourselves how much of our experiences with others are projections of our own desires, expectations, attachments. We have to remember that nothing needs fixing. We were put here to love, and that’s pretty much it.
So here’s what I’m thinking. Let’s all make a pact and try, really hard, to check our attachments at the door when experiencing the journey of another. It’s going to be hard. I know. Especially because half the time we don’t even know we’re caught up in the first place. Let’s try not to fill in the gaps for them. Not try to play out the before and after. Let’s just be with people, where they are, and love them, without judgement. Let’s be real with ourselves and recognize when and how and why we get caught up in the compulsion to mend. That’s where the genius is, people. Storm or not. Let it barrel on.
Grilled Carrots over Lentils with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce
2 bunches spring carrots, stems reserved for garnish
1 1/2 cups french lentils
1/2 cup carrot greens, chopped
1 large handful baby spinach
1 handful parsley, chopped
1/2 cup chives, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
salt/pepper to taste
Horseradish Yogurt Sauce
1 1/2 cup full fat yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp (or more) grated fresh horseradish
dash of salt
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Cook lentils until al dente, nearly 20 minutes. Rinse and set aside.
Rinse the carrots and remove stems. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast on the grill or under the broiler until blackened and soft through the center (10-20 minutes, depending). Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together yogurt and lemon juice. Grate garlic and peeled horseradish root on a microplane grater over the yogurt. Add a dash of salt then taste. Do you need more horseradish? If you’re like me, you like the kick and will need to add more. Cover and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
In a large mixing bowl, toss together cooled lentils, olive oil, spinach, parsley, chives, carrot greens, shallot, and salt/pepper. Distribute the lentil salad on a serving platter and top with grilled carrots. Fetch sauce from the fridge and drizzle yogurt generously over the carrots. Garnish with carrot greens.
He noticed that despite the passing years the woman looked the same; the veil hiding her hair had not faded with time.
She handed him a blue notebook full of blank pages.
“Write: A Warrior of the Light values a child’s eyes because they are able to look at the world without bitterness. When he wants to find out if the person beside him is worthy of his trust, he tries to see him as a child would.”
“What is a Warrior of the Light?”
“You already know that,” she replied with a smile. “He is someone capable of understanding the miracle of life, of fighting to the last for something he believes in – and of hearing the bells that the waves set ringing on the seabed.”
He had never thought of himself as a Warrior of the Light.
The woman seemed to read his thoughts. “Everyone is capable of these things. And, though no one thinks himself as a Warrior of the Light, we all are.”
He looked at the blank pages in the notebook. The woman smiled again.
“Write about the Warrior,” she said.
Paulo Coelho Warrior of the Light, A Manual
Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Lentils, Bacon, and Pear Salad
Inspired by the Brussels Sprouts Chapter in Nigel Slater’s Tender
2 lbs. brussels sprouts
2 Comice Pears
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup cooked bacon
1 cup De Puy Lentils
1/2 cup olive oil
2 heaping tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
salt/pepper to taste
Bring two pots of water to a boil. One for the lentils, one for blanching the brussel sprouts. Cook lentils for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, shred brussel sprouts by hand or in a food processer. Set aside. Cook bacon to a crisp and lay to rest on a paper towel until cooled. Chop and set aside.
Roughly chop hazelnuts and toast in a dry pan for 5 minutes until browned but not burned. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, dijon, honey, red wine vinegar, and salt/pepper. Set aside. When all accessory ingredients have been prepped, toss shaved brussels sprouts into the boiling water and blanch for no more than 1 minute. Pour into a colander and rinse with cold water immediately. Dry with a salad spinner-dude or with towels. In a large bowl combine sprouts, cooked lentils, chopped bacon, and toasted hazelnuts. Cut in the slightest slivers of pear over the salad. Toss lightly with your hands before mixing in the dressing. Taste test for extra salt or dijon.
Hey, did you notice we got a facelift!? Thanks to the wonderful Megan Gilger and Aaron Wade for their savvy, kindness, and patience. Pardon the dust as I tidy up new bits and pieces of the site. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
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.