coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Monday, June 1, 2015

Deep Thought

The other morning I almost made pasta sauce with peppermint instead of oregano.

I decided to make red sauce in the slow cooker for a change.  I have two friends who are sisters.  I have known them since high school.  Their Italian mother used to make a memorable sauce wherein she simmered it all day.  It was the best thing I had ever tasted when I was 16.  They keep telling me her sauce only consisted of tomato paste and veal, but I cannot bring myself to cook with calf meat; it is too sad.  I wondered if I could get a similar intensity of flavor with my own red sauce if I used the slow cooker for, say, 7 hours?  I figured while it cooked I could go to the Farmer's Market and buy veggies, and perhaps even purchase the Gardenia I have been dreaming about.  Maybe two.

I had just finished watching a 20 minute long YouTube video of Oprah interviewing the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk,
Thích Nhất Hạnh.  Just to give you an idea about how special this guy is, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.  His thoughts on suffering and compassion, anger and love are pretty logical; not the least bit goofy.  I was feeling kind of spiritual, hopeful even, after watching the video.  Considering my nearly constant struggles with the issues he raised, I was a bit preoccupied as I subsequently started to make the red sauce. I was deep in thought.

We have both oregano and basil in large pots on our lanai, as well as spearmint and peppermint, cilantro, and thyme.  I need some dill.  I am trying to grow tarragon from seed, but I am not having any luck.  I know it is because tarragon cannot grow here; they don't even sell it at Lowe's.  What is wrong with me that I cannot surrender to reality?  Even though Lowe's does not sell French Tarragon, they do sell something called Mexican Tarragon.  I imagine it is
really Mexican Marigold Mint.  I should stop being so damned stubborn and give it a try. 

I am usually too lazy to cook with fresh herbs.  T is the master cook around here.  But I just had my mind blown by a holy man and I was determined to be uber-cool and make dinner with fresh herbs.  Yeah - "cool."  I got it all wrong as usual.  I am not bragging.  Sometimes I cannot stand myself.

Anyway, I was deep in thought about issues of great spiritual import while I was harvesting herbs.  Thinking does not make for mindfulness, by the way.  The peppermint is right next to the oregano.  I happily snipped peppermint sprigs and brought them into the house to clean them alongside the basil.   Luckily they did not smell right when I washed them and my olfactory senses brought me back to reality.  I thought, "Wow, this is really odd oregano" before recognizing it for what it was, reliving the snipping experience in my mind, and realizing I had been hacking away at the wrong herb.  Sometimes I forget that I need to pull my head out of the sand once in awhile and come up for air. 

I am almost sure I don't have dementia, nor was it a Senior Moment.  I have always been like this.  I can be a very sloppy thinker.  On the road of life I am more of a daydreaming passenger than a focused driver.

I took a break from writing and went to the Farmer's Market to buy that Gardenia.  I am sad to say the Gardenia vendor was not there.  It was disappointing; however, I will try again next week.

The best part of my trek to the market was stumbling upon a new vendor, a lovely middle-aged, red-headed Belgian woman.  Her red hair was pulled up in back and she had long, straight bangs.  She was elegantly slender, as so many of those Northern European women are, and she was wearing a simple, sleeveless white cotton dress with a nice, tasteful green design that looked to be stamped on the fabric.  I want straight hair.  I want that dress.  I wonder if they make it in a size 14, petite?

She was selling French Madeleines, Dutch Specaloos, and Belgian Waffles.  I was beside myself with joy.  Her accent was heavy and her command of English was weak.  Still, I persisted in engaging her in conversation.  I discovered she had only been in the States for 5 weeks.  She had a French/English dictionary lying on the counter in case she could not remember a word in English.  That just about broke my heart. T and I did a stint at the Farmer's Market last winter selling homemade candles.  I know how rough some of those customers can be, even when English is your first language.  I was a little in awe of her courage in managing the kiosk alone.

She was a stranger in a strange land and by all that is holy I wanted to make her feel welcome.
Talking to her reminded me of the multicultural landscape I used to inhabit over the 37 years I worked at Cornell. 

Getting to interact with people from all over the world was the very best part of my working years.  I was a staff member, not an academic.  Being in a place where I could actually interact with people from other countries was heady stuff for a working stiff like me.  I often shepherded new and confused foreign faculty or graduate students through the workings of a complex university bureaucracy. I always felt honored to help them. 

Like me, the pastry vendor had recently left her home, a place she loved, to move to this strange place called Central Florida to be near her grown child.  Unlike me, she has two other children.  One still lives in Belgium, and the other lives in Vietnam.  She will be visiting her son in Vietnam this summer.  What a brave soul she seemed to be.  It is interesting, living a life.  When you live for love you never know where life might take you. 

Speaking of which, I bought a bag of madeleines and a bag of specaloos and I drove home.  When I got inside I wondered why I had not bought the Belgian waffles, too?  She had told me she made with Belgian Chocolate chips!  I got back in the car, drove back down to the Farmer's Market and bought the waffles. Good thing, too, because those were T's favorite.

Our tween granddaughter, E The Magnificent, was spending the night with us that night.  She imagines herself a foodie.  I looked forward to sharing them with her and T.  Perhaps someday, many years from now, she will be eating a madeleine and will suddenly, inexplicably remember her dear old grandparents.  I understand eating madeleines with a hot beverage can invoke these special powers.  Of course, I forgot the tea!

I recently started counting calories again.  I rode my bike in advance to make room on my balance sheet for pastry.


  1. You have GOT to be a New Yorker! If you're not and you find some offense in that, well, I apologize (not sure why)... But you seem to posses that particularly charming way of looking at the world that somehow seems to belong only to true NYer's. When I was a child my mother had a dear friend who emigrated from NY to Oregon. She had a sort of wry humor that gave a spark to life in a very small provincial town. You make me think of her with your writing. It's so enjoyable.

    The best red sauce I ever ate was tomato sauce with pork ribs simmered all day. I practically fainted. I too cannot use veal, it seems heartless to me and I just keep seeing their big brown eyes, sigh.

    1. Thanks Liv. I am a native Hoosier (from the industrial north). However, I lived most of my adult life in The Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York (Ithaca, to be exact). When you say "true NYer's" I am assuming you mean people from The City. Lots of transplanted New Yorkers in the Ithaca area to everyone's everlasting delight. But I am not one of them.

  2. I think this is one of my favorite of your posts! I am not sure why, exactly, but I think it is because of the connection to travel, to far off lands (Belgium, Vietnam), to being in a new & foreign place, to eating international foods! Your self-effacing humor always kills me, too! Love you!

  3. There is nothing that tastes as good as a Belgian waffle. Nothing.


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