“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.
It’s 2 am and I just ate the last piece of molasses cake leftover from the New Years Eve gathering we hosted a few days ago. I never saw anyone eat a slice, but the next morning I found the bundt half gone on it’s stand, covered by a dish towel. I like that people can expect a treat when they’re at the house. I’m often asked why I cook and my answer has evolved and simplified over time: to love, to nourish. It’s a small thing, on my list of big things, of ways to say I love you.
In any case, there is a vent beneath the counter that warms a patch of tile on the kitchen floor and I stood on it, camped out in my bare feet, eating, listening to the creaks of the house and sorting through a stack of mail beside me. I turn over what appears to be a credit card offer and start scribbling a shopping list. Cauliflower. Horseradish. Greens. Coffee beans (!). Chemex filters (!!!!!). Toothpaste. Chocolate chips. Goat’s Gouda. Dates.
I love January and it’s everyday-ness. I’m glad for a regular pulse again. The holidays are great but it’s the stillness that I crave at the end of it all. We took our little evergreen out to the curb promptly when we returned from California and I filled the house with white ranunculus and put my Dad’s Neil Young album, Harvest, on our new record player to fill the house with something… normal.
New Years resolutions have never been my bag. Not on the 1st, at least. I want to cover my ears, close my eyes, and shout la la la la la la la la la la la when “goals for 2014″ comes up in social conversations because here’s the deal: A new year starts whenever I say it starts. You guys know me, I’ll preach intentionality ’til I’m blue in the face, but, erase the numbers on the calendar and the year restarts fifty times, even one hundred times in 365 days, if we want it to. I like the idea of resolving and revising my life, intentions, goals, and boundaries throughout the entirety of the year. My blueprints look nothing like they did a month ago, and I’d wager they’ll look different next month. Without grandeur or pomp or circumstance, there are always occasions that beg a breaking down and rebuilding the foundation. Fate and free will do their dance, and we are presented with, or choose, change.
That’s the beauty of this human life we get to live here on planet earth. We get to revise. We get to shift lanes. We can stop what we’re doing at any point of the day, month, year and say hey, you know, I think I’m going to to try doing things differently from here out. We are constantly being called to look in and look out at they way we treat people, how we spend our time, how we think about ourselves, and the respect we show our bodies and our planet. Instead of cramming in all that self-reflection and goal setting for the sparkling brevity of a ball-drop, I’d ask you to consider celebrating a new year, a new you, whenever you can. And those days are worth celebrating. The Thursday in March where you wake up, put your feet on the floor, and say to yourself: today will be different, today I will… (fill in the blank)… that’s gold right there. There will be no confetti or champagne. But it will be perfect, and you did it all on your own.
Happy New Year, today, and every day.
Shiitake Bok Choy Dumplings
It’s cold out! If you live in a winter-y climate, skip the juice fast and feed your Qi with warming, nourishing foods. My acupuncturist, Anna, says it’s an order. For the wonton sheets… I could only get my hands on the itty-bitty variety, which, if you have fingers that aren’t on the dainty side like me, folding can be a bit of a challenge (albeit a worthy one). If you can find wrappers that are bigger, i.e. 3x3in, I’d suggest doubling the filling for this recipe.
25 wonton wrappers
4 bulbs bok choy
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms
2 large carrots
1 inch nub ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced chives
1 tsp orange zest
1 tbsp tamari or Braggs liquid aminos
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
+ extra bok choy to line the steam basket
Orange Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 cup tamari
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp water
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp cornstarch
Get the sauce out of the way: Combine ingredients (except for cornstarch and orange zest) in a saucepan on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in cornstarch and zest last then remove from heat.
For the dumpling filling: chop boy choy, shiitakes, chives and carrots into very small pieces. Using a microplane grater, shave garlic, ginger, and orange zest into the vegetables and mix together. Warm sesame oil over medium heat in a pot or sauté pan. Add vegetable mixture and the tamari and stir to soften for no more than 5 minutes. The veggies should be vibrant and al dente.
Assemble the dumplings by placing one sheet on a flat surface. With a bowl of water near your dominant hand, dip a finger or two in the water and wet the perimeter of the dumpling so when you fold it all up it will stick together. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of cooked filling in the center and fold together by adjoining the two opposite corners with a pinch and then repeating with the remaining corners, sealing the edges together as you go like a present. If your wonton wrappers are circular, you can see detailed instructions on how to assemble here. Repeat until all filling has been used.
Prepare your steaming mechanism (pot with steamer lined with bok choy or lettuce, ghetto white girl style like moi… or by using a real-deal bamboo steamer as seen here). When there is sufficient steam generated, place as many dumplings as you can fit without touching one another. Cook for 5-8 minutes.
When I was in Vegas a few months ago for the Saveur Awards, I got a ride from the airport with a female cab driver with rose tinted aviators and a turquoise manicure. She sang along, shamelessly, to “I’ve Got You, Babe” as we zoomed along the desert highway and looked back just once in her rearview mirror to say “honey, if you can tell me who sings this… ride’s on me.” I drew a blank. She laughed. Really? I was so embarrassed. Sonny and Cher. I thought about that one year we went as Sonny and Cher to our Sadie Hawkins dance in 2005, I burned the song to a CD to play in the car and we sang it ourselves in the parking lot near the swimming pool at our High School.
The same song was playing yesterday when I stopped for breakfast at a cafe in San Luis Obispo. It was Saturday. Couples in workout gear moseyed in and woke up over coffee and acai bowls. Oh, California. A familiar scene and characters that Shaun and I could have lived out had we never left. I carry a Colorado driver’s license now and and am taking in the California coastline alone as a visitor. Campsites were full the two nights prior so I slept in the cab of my borrowed truck parked in a hotel lot away from the lights. This was a whole new level of vagabonding. I had a hard time falling asleep and my mind began racing with questions of the legality of my makeshift homestead. Squinting with one eye open on my side, I googled “is sleeping in your car legal?” on my phone which led to a series of other searches for murder records in Pismo Beach, the addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders within five miles of where I was parked. I closed my eyes, said a little prayer, and didn’t wake again until 5:54 am. I lunged over the console to the drivers seat and peeled out for the beach.
They say we’re young and we don’t know, we won’t find out until we grow. Well I don’t know if all that’s true, You’ve got me and baby I’ve got you.
It’s funny how much has changed since we took turns with those lyrics in our costumes. Shaun and I started our relationship fighting the dogma that we were too young to “get it.” Truth is after all these years I don’t know if I’ve “gotten it” any more than I did then. We grow up. Time wears on our idealism, the ego plays its hand, we lose our perspective, we hurt each other intentionally and not. This is the human experience, in relationship, really. We try, we fail, we work, we regroup. I loved us then, I love us more now, despite the ways time has blemished our story. I’m sitting on a cliff watching the waves crash on the rocks in Half Moon Bay right now, journaling. A wise friend’s ashes were spread here many years ago… he was, and I think still probably is, Shaun’s and my fiercest cheerleader. I haven’t cried this hard in years. We haven’t always done it right, Hayden, but we’re still here. I wish you could see this love, now. I hope you’d be proud.
I drove to my brother’s place in silence later that night with the windows down. The sun was just beginning to retire and there was that sort of glow about the road that made my life feel oddly cinematic. I had gone back through When Women Were Birds over the course of the trip, transcribing passages to my journal and hashing them out in the mornings from my sleeping bag. It rested in the passenger seat atop musky beach towels, a half eaten loaf of bread, and a pile of seagull feathers I started collecting in Santa Monica. In the distance I could see a flight of birds moving up the coast along the road, I admired them for a few seconds until I realized they were flying straight toward me. Drifting. Drifting. Drifting. Yet was sudden. A single bird did not follow the the others and slammed into my windshield like a bullseye. I screamed and watched, horrified, in the rearview mirror as it bounced to the ground and other cars passed over her grave. I looked at the book and the feathers in the passenger seat and felt like I couldn’t breathe. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??!!? I felt like in accidentally killing the bird, I had betrayed every intimacy with Terry Tempest Williams’ words and thoughts on women and birds over the past month. It was hard not to to feel auspicious or look for symbology. Why did the bird stray from her friends? I have so many questions. I should write Ms. Williams a letter. Maybe it’s not time for it all to make sense yet…
They say we’re young and we don’t know, we won’t find out until we grow. Well I don’t know if all that’s true, You’ve got me and baby I’ve got you.
I’m finally home in Denver. It feels right and good, I’m finding out, as I grow.
Inspired by the menu of a swanky bar in Los Angeles that friends Mike and Mel took us to a few weeks ago. I like a cocktail that’s a real kick in the pants, this one takes first prize.
Recipe for a single cocktail. Increase quantities as necessary for your guests.
2 oz (1 shot) tequila reposado
4 oz (2 shots) ginger beer
4 oz guava juice
4-6 round slivers of fresh jalapeño
In a cocktail shaker combine liquids, a few slivers of jalapeño, and a few cubes of ice. Shake. Pour over glass filled with ice. Garnish with more jalapeño.
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.