Entry / pre-
This is a very long piece, 8400 words last I checked, four times what I usually write, no way to write less.
Wanted to let you know in case you needed to prep some extra comfort for the time/space/experience of reading, in whatever form that looks like for you, snacks and a refreshing beverage, a more comfy way to sit, I don’t know.
And I wanted to add that, yet again, things are tumultuous out there in the world, and seemingly accelerated at the same time, so: lighting a candle to welcome whatever hope-glimmers may come, may they arrive swiftly. ❤️
Recipes for Times of Free Fall
What is in my brain right now
I am having more trouble than usual holding onto a thread of attention. Long Covid has turned my ADHD up to eleven, and I cannot maintain a thought, remember where said thought was going, or even where I was going, and I mean this in the most literal way.
I repeat everything I am doing to myself out loud so I don’t forget.
“Come on, babe. We are walking into the next room to fold the laundry, here’s the plan, we will fold the laundry, then put it away, you can do this, I believe in you, where are we going? To fold the laundry!”
One brief brisk lap later
And then, much like my cousin’s pea-brained dobermans who will meet you, decide you’re okay (after having been informed and sternly reminded that you are family), but then immediately forget that they already know you after having done one (1) brief brisk lap around the kitchen island, I too forget, again, what I meant to do.
Joshua’s dogs: A STRANGER! IN OUR MIDST! DEVOUR THE STRANGER!
Joshua: No, you know Havi!
Dogs: Oh right, yes, okay, we do know Havi
Dogs, after one lap around the kitchen island: WHO IS THIS INTRUDER!!!! HOW DARE!!!
True story, I did not find this amusing or relatable at the time, and yet, now I am these dogs, anything at all can erase whatever small progress has been made towards the forgotten-goal.
All that to say that today’s piece of writing has been kicking around in my head for a while now, and I lost the thread so many different times, and find myself now with only a confusing tangle of clues.
So, I have made a list (which reads like an accidental poem) of what I wanted to write about, or am reasonably sure I wanted to write about when I was writing this in my head, aka the pre-write, and, who knows, maybe I will write about any or all of those things, we will see…
The contents of my brain right now
Let’s turn them into a table (of contents!)…
On Vibrancy / To Vibrancy
In Times of free-fall
Recipes for self-soothing
Refreshing (double meaning)
Into the kitchen and into the cauldron
The Greenest Green
Beige (which sounds like the opposite of green but it is not)
To life (which also tastes green? it tastes like green!)
Ringing and also Ringing In (the ice cream truck in my head)
To Life To Life, L’chaim
Just about everyone I know is free-falling right now, in free-fall, a state of.
Not yet landing. Still falling. Motion: continuous. In the ongoing-ness of a wild ride. Or at least, immersed in these perceptions of This is a free fall. Immersed in this experience of Excuse me, this plummeting is not what I signed up for actually…
The ongoing-ness of the wild ride
Ride is possibly too neutral of a word, this specifically feels like a descent. A tumultuous downward motion-experience that is an undoing.
And not just an undoing, but an undoing into the unknown.
Some of these people I know are also going through absolutely heart-wrenching personal tragedies. And sometimes the tragedies are the pre-free-fall, the impetus, while sometimes the loss and the sensations of falling are just happening at the same time. What do you do?
What do you do when you are in a free-fall
What do you do when you are in a free-fall?
One of them asked me that. To be clear, I am also in a free-fall, of a different flavor.
Sometimes I really like the way text doesn’t give information in the form of intonation. You have no idea what octave anything is in. There’s something playful in that to me, if one can be playful while free-falling, I am not sure, but it’s what I’ve got in the moment.
A question is offered to me, devoid of tone, and I can read it in a variety of ways. It could be [what do you do in a free-fall] or [what do you do in a free-fall]. Or, possibly, what do you do in a free-fall?????
We have options. I like options.
You know when you go to look up a recipe online and there’s a whole prelude about the person’s childhood, their last vacation, a weird dream they had, and/or the history of plums?
I think though sometimes they give you a link where you can skip all that and jump to the actual recipe, and I had this panicked moment just now like, wait, should I be doing that with my posts and link to the parts where I offer an actual technique???
(Panic because I don’t know how and don’t have energy, and who knows if I will get to techniques today, who knows how many times I will lose the thread?)
But then I laughed because oh wait, why am I worrying about this non-issue, this isn’t even a cooking blog, people come here for the complicated winding backstory, not to mention the parenthetical asides within parenthetical asides that I believe are a feature, not a bug, of adhd storytelling. If there are recipes to be found here, the recipes are just a bonus.
I will not apologize. This is not even a cooking blog! Haha, okay, babe, let’s keep going.
Except when it is
Yeah, okay, I don’t know, this online space been many things to many people over the years (and I am waving to people who have been reading my words here since 2008, possibly some of you were getting my newsletter all the way back in 2005), so maybe it kind of is a cooking blog.
Certainly many actual recipes have been posted over the years, and certainly self-fluency techniques are like recipes, in that you can take the heart or essence of what they are about, and substitute your own ingredients. Use what you have, work with what you have, start where you are.
The Recipe to a recipe (yes, this is backstory)
The reason, I’m told, that food blogs do The Winding Backstory thing, is that recipes, even the ones we ourselves have invented and believe in our hearts and kitchens to be the most unique, are not.
Someone else came up with the exact same way to make a pie that you did, and the only way to be able to claim a recipe as yours is to add something that someone else couldn’t; what makes your recipe proprietary is the story-telling.
Which I don’t feel the need to do here, but I like stories, and especially when I don’t know where they are going, I like to be surprised.
Anyway, I am convinced that the reason people are so reactive to this phenomenon goes beyond just a case of being hangry while looking up recipes, or impatient to get to the steps. I think it’s the dissonance.
Something about the story that is set out before the recipe is not ringing true. I don’t mean that the story itself is untrue, just that something about the filler-ness of it sets off a quiet alarm of [hmmm something is disharmonious], if that makes sense.
I have a story about pomegranate juice (it is not a filler story)
I have a story about pomegranate juice that is related (in my tastebuds and my sense memory) to a recipe-recipe, and related (in the way my mind calls up a web of interconnections) to what might be my most-reached-for personal recipe for what I do while in a free-fall.
It is also, I think, a story about what free-fall reminds me of.
And about the elements that live inside the opposite of free-fall for me.
(We Do Grounding Things, Pleasure Is a Grounding Thing, Anything Can Be A Ritual & Rituals Are Healing, Right Here Right Now, Acknowledgment & Legitimacy, for starters…)
Many, many years ago, I was a yoga teacher at, among other places, a studio in a suburb north of Tel Aviv. My boss: an ambitious person whose grandiose plans often involved a complicated web of lies.
And, with the astonishing Mr Magoo levels of luck that narcissists seem to mysteriously access, he was never found out in any meaningful way, that I know of. Or people knew but there were no consequences. You know how this works. You are familiar with the phenomenon of men in positions of power.
Though of course we can hold out hope — and light a candle, for a hilarious well-timed downfall that does or does not (this part is optional, in his case) lead to some genuine remorse, stranger things do happen.
(And if we’re all falling already anyway, why shouldn’t we get to enjoy the rare pleasure of watching a well-timed crash here and there…?)
Well well if it isn’t the President
This is a small example, but it is also the funniest example: What would you do if you wanted to be the head of the Israeli yoga teacher association but it wasn’t going to happen? Well, this guy invented his own association with a similar name, and appointed himself president of that one, which didn’t exist.
He then made business cards to that effect, and took them to conferences in the United States and Europe, where he invited world-famous yoga teachers to come to Israel for weekend workshops, introducing himself as the president of something that sounded like it might plausibly be a thing.
Possibly he called it a federation instead of an association but even the name was basically a copycat, though, again, this association-federation was, much like the Fake Band of the Week — just one guy.
And, impossibly, it worked.
He pulled it off and soon was bringing in bigger names (and because of this, sometimes bigger crowds) than the actual yoga teachers association which did exist, and in fact existed for this very purpose.
Accidental tour guide
Sidebar to say that I was the only teacher at this particular studio with very fluent English, and the only one whose first language wasn’t Russian (classes were in Hebrew).
Between that and being able to get by in German, I often was the liaison for these visiting guest teachers.
And that combined with being the only one who lived in Tel Aviv was how I ended up in the role of a tour guide one afternoon, tasked with showing [world famous yoga teacher] the best of the city in a brief amount of time.
I figured if we only had couple hours, might as well experience something beyond the beach and the Bauhaus balconies. This situation called for fresh pomegranate juice.
If you know, you know
Besides, in addition to being one of the sensory wonders of the world, pomegranate juice also lands squarely in the category of the most [this is what you do here if you’re in the know] things.
Zigzag your way to a tiny stand in a corner of the market that looks like a it might not be a stand at all, maybe it’s just a guy sitting on a bucket by a table, prepare to have your mind blown.
Ahhh, nothing in world like the freshest fresh pomegranate juice from the grumpiest old man alive who seemingly both loved and hated the art of pomegranate juicing, who might curse at you if he spoke to you at all, hameyvin yavin*, I lived for this.
Ah the daily calculus of death
But then, as we were weaving haphazardly through the alleyways at the edge of the market, heading directly towards chaos, it occurred to me that possibly people who don’t live in Tel Aviv aren’t inured to devastation in the same way, maybe not familiar with the daily Russian roulette of running errands in dangerous places.
Could be they don’t have the same risk tolerance, I’d never been to Santa Monica and couldn’t compare.
Did I have a moral obligation (and either way, was it a good idea or not), to inform him that suicide bombings in the market were a thing, and that we were making the opposite of smart life choices, those being to avoid crowded places and steer clear of obvious target areas…
The famous yoga teacher was acerbic, funny, a true wild card, delightfully unexpected. Very much a lover of life, and I mean that both in a contemplative yoga teacher way and in a full-speed-ahead hedonist way.
Clearly the only correct approach was to level with him.
“Soooooooo, here’s the thing,” I said. “Small-ish chance we could die. Small-ish to medium. We probably won’t die. We’ll do this fast. In and out. But if we do die, as long as we drink the juice first, it won’t be too big of a tragedy, totally worth it, assuming we get the juice. Of course if it happens before we get the juice, then that’s a disaster.”
I wasn’t sure if he’d get, or be able to appreciate, the extremely on-brand Tel Aviv humor but he did.
“I’m all in. Sounds like great juice! What do we have to lose, other than everything you just mentioned?”
The equilibrium of juice
I always got pomegranate juice from the same guy; his juice was sorcery. Actually I was half convinced there was some secret law of nature at work here, as if the potency powers of this juice existed in a delicate equilibrium, in some inversely proportionate way, with the sourness of his mood.
I warned the famous yoga teacher that this juice-acquiring venture involved not only a small to medium risk of explosion but also a very temperamental man with a machete. He seemed fine with this.
The pomegranate-juice maker glared at us. Coins were handed over and placed on a low table. He said nothing and reached into his box of fresh pomegranates, then matter-of-factly took vengeance upon them with his terrifying knife. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!
He squeezed out cups full to the brim with liquid rubies, and waited, arms crossed, knife in hand, for us to taste.
Nectar of rubies
To taste and exhale that very specific full-body-joy exhale, to smile that lost-in-pomegranate smile.
This juice just glowed, there’s no other way to describe it. Like it was made of sweetness and light, and also the opposite of both of those. It was rich, complex and thrilling. A sensory catalyst for tingliness.
Nectar of the gemstone gods. Sensational, in all meanings of the word.
Holy shit, said the visiting famous yoga teacher.
I know. There’s nothing like it.
I think a lot about this fresh pomegranate juice in a small cup that I used to somewhat regularly chance death for because it was just that good, how it tasted. Almost as if the word VIBRANCY were a taste.
As if ALIVE were a taste. As if IN THIS MOMENT I AM JOYFUL ABOUT BEING ALIVE were a flavor, in the way that sour or sweet exist as taste sensation. Can pleasure in aliveness be allotted its own special space on the tongue.
Replicate, Reconstitute, Recapture, Reconstruct, Re-conjure
I also think a lot about how I am always trying to bring back the essence of that. To replicate.
In the kitchen, in my movement practice, in sweet and in sour or terrifying times, while free-falling, while clawing my way out of the narrow places.
From the depths of the depths, how can I source that dopamine surge of VIBRANCY again. Forever seeking the sensation of that first sip of pomegranate essence, nectar of rubies, alive, alive, alive.
A very specific sensation that reminds me that yes, I want this, I do want this, I want to be here now.
The pleasure (this pleasure) is all mine
Like, oh wow, what an honor to be alive, honestly an honor to even get to play, an honor to taste refreshing aliveness like this.
I don’t always feel like this, I often don’t, but this is in many ways what I am trying to replicate or reconstruct. To invite it back from wherever it is hiding. To throw it a party when it returns.
THE RETURN OF THE DOPAMINE. Hello, sweet friend, how I have missed you and missed missing you.
That’s it, really, at its essence. I’m just a wandering desert sorceress, a retired assassin with amnesia, in search of tiny tastes, these sweet momentary reminders.
Grounded sensation, grounded pleasure. Yes please to life.
We made it out alive.
I made it out alive.
From the many terrible things that happened to me both in that job and in my many years in the city.
That’s really all I want to say about that for now. Here now.
I live in New Mexico now. I love New Mexico.
New Mexico feels good to me, good for me. The food and the sky and the way I feel when I’m there, and no one asks me to explain how I evaded army service, though of course I will tell you, if you want.
Let’s be honest though. No one here is inured to devastation either.
This country (the United States) is violent, oppressive, terrifying and heartbreaking in other terrible ways, I certainly don’t expect to be spared from loss here either, and, to be clear, I remain appalled by and deeply ashamed of both my countries. I want better for them, and mostly I want better from them.
It is unbearably painful to read about Uvalde, about Buffalo, the endless mass shootings, the Supreme Court, the massive fires devastating New Mexico, and still some days I find myself unable to stop refreshing for updates.
New Mexico is on fire right now.
The two biggest fires in New Mexico history are both happening at the same time, and one of them, the Black Fire, is near me. A few miles from the marker that tells me I am just about home.
Between these two fires, so much forest land has been consumed that put together the burnt lands are the size of the state of Rhode Island.
There is a ready, set, go evacuation system in place. For a moment there, my sweet mini-house that I call The Sailboat was in READY, now it’s in SET. I do not like SET. Set is the thing that happens before a free-fall.
SET is more stressful than GO, in some ways. SET is knowing and dreading while also not-knowing and still dreading. I am not enjoying SET.
Mainly I am remembering all the many times I have been in SET, and everything that happened after.
Time to hit the road
People keep saying maybe it’s time to leave, and obviously I already left.
The smoke was way too much for hsp me (extremely high sensory processing sensitivity, among other sensitivities) long before other people were reacting to it. The weather app finally updated the air quality as “hazardous” yesterday. No kidding. I could have told you that a week ago.
The worry was too much too, and not having signal out there where I’m semi off-grid means no way to even know when SET becomes GO, so I self-selected an early-go in the interest of Safety First.
Thankfully, I am extremely fortunate to have some good safe house options “next door” in Arizona, a few hours away. I bolted and have been overdosing on updates, reports, reports on the updates and updates about the reports.
Safety First and choosing towards life. To life.
Which now I’m second-guessing (the part about early evacuation, not the part about choosing towards life, I am still choosing towards life, every day) because everything I love is in that tiny trailer.
So yes, I want to rush back and rescue things except I don’t have the energy (understatement), and am not inclined to set myself into motion towards the thing I had to flee from. Ahahahaha, yes. This of course is about not just fires.
And again this part abut how I seemingly can’t stop. I can’t stop refreshing for updates.
Refreshing has more than one meaning
Refreshing is what I am doing right now, compulsively, on my phone. Refreshing the evacuation map. Refreshing search engine searches.
Refreshing to see if there is more news about the danger. Gotta get a taste of that fresh, fresh news.
But refreshing is also the opposite of that. Refreshing is a cool breeze, the sweetness of rain, the miracle of juice fresh from a just-thwacked pomegranate, juice like liquid rubies.
Refreshing is summertime pleasures. Refreshments are desserts piled high on trays.
Refreshing is the act of something being made fresh again? That doesn’t make sense, if it wasn’t fresh, how can it become fresh? And yet, here we are, refreshed and refreshened (I am not sure if that one is a word but I want it to be a word).
I am refreshing the updates. But also: seeking tastes and sensations that refresh me, that are refreshing.
That yoga studio I worked at was in a place, formerly a town, now a suburb of the city, and its name means FRESHNESS. Refreshingness? To reflexively refresh, you refresh yourself.
The name didn’t fit the town other than in a very aspirational way, but that is true of a lot of places.
Is tinnitus another Long Covid thing?
I always had spells of ringing in my ears but now it’s all the time, I can’t always tell the difference between the timer going off and the ICE CREAM TRUCK living inside my head.
Lost my train of thought, again. Long Covid, ADHD and concussion brain are fighting it out, in the ring.
I am thinking about things ringing true. About ringing clarity. About bells and how they clear space, but also sound the alarm.
The internet says yes, this is definitely another Long Covid thing, that’s fun.
To circle and encircle
A stone skipped into the water results in a reverberation of circles: a ringing of rings.
The circles are ringing the stone, we are ringing ourselves. (But not wringing, that is different).
Ringing into clarity is the opposite of a free-fall, it might even press pause on a free fall, ringing as a redirect.
A refreshing reframing: maybe nothing was falling to begin with. Maybe we just zoomed in or out too far and too fast, we lost perspective. Maybe we are more steady than we think. Maybe.
And a ring is something you seek in fairy tales and stories. A ring can be a MacGuffin, or it can be the treasure. I am free-falling, but there is a ring of protection, a circle of safety, a team on the ground. To life.
I pretty much never tell people what to do here
You may have noticed.
That’s because People Vary, and at different times we need different things.
But it’s also because there is nothing to be gained from me having the answers. Which, to be clear, I don’t.
Of course I only have my answers. And even if I did have someone else’s answers (I don’t believe I do), there is no benefit to anyone if I agree to step into the role of the giver-of-answers. That’s the opposite of self-fluency.
That leads to guru culture, which is unappealing to me in all ways, but especially because of this: when we put people-with-answers on pedestals, we forget how to access or trust inner knowing and hard-earned wisdom.
The opposite of having the answers
I want the opposite of that, which for me means playing, experimenting, documenting my experiments, modeling how I practice. Yes to sharing techniques, approaches and idea sparks, and a no (for me) when it comes to instructing, and a big no to any form of This Is The One Right Way.
I am not interested in being the answer-haver or the answer-giver or the person at the front of the room.
Instead I want to keep engaging in the ongoing process of self-tending, self-cherishing and seeking out (or being receptive to) the clues and questions that feel compelling to me in a given moment.
Ideally, modeling that process makes it easier for other people to be playful and intentional in their own process, whatever that looks like. We are all running our experiments and dealing with our own challenges, being alive and in a body is not a piece of cake.
Interruptions of sweetness
Though wow, not gonna lie, and people vary, so this might not ring true for you, but for me sometimes Solved By Cake is truly a great solution, or an intentional interruption to a free-fall.
We interrupt this message to bring you a moment of sweetness.
A recipe for self soothing (part zero, the pre-step)
Anyway, all that to say the same thing to you that I said to the beloved person who was free-falling:
I know that you are a conscious, capable, wise person who already has some hard-earned A+ self-tethering skills (in the positive sense of that), so I would say go with what you know works.
Aka the principle of Whatever Fucking Works.
Whether that’s writing your way back to yourself, because journaling is what works for you, or rolling around on the floor because rolling is what is needed. Moving or not moving or having a good cry, or taking yourself to a place where you will be gifted with a symbolic (or possibly literal) change of perspective, if that’s an option. I am a big fan of whatever works.
We all have some Known Things that help. Maybe some are off limits because they aren’t available right now, and maybe some are off-limits because we have learned they don’t actually help. We can revise the list. It’s okay. New list is good too. Let’s just start naming them. Here’s one of my favorites.
A recipe for self soothing (1)
This is where I start.
My personal most helpful for me thing to do in a free fall situation is sounding sounds in the form of humming, and here’s the key to the whole thing:
The humming happens with my thumbs pressing my ears shut and index/middle fingers pressing center of forehead, sometimes referred to as the third eye, if that helps you feel into the location.
You hum your hum, with ears shut and fingers touching in.
It kind of mimics being underwater (in a good way), it reminds me of how I feel in a float tank. Like something has hummed me into quiet, almost as if, if you can imagine this, you are humming your way into being your own self-contained singing bowl.
No matter how distressed I am, doing this helps me access a state that I like to call 10% More At Peace.
10% More At Peace
The great thing about 10% More At Peace is that the effects are fractal.
Also, there’s always another X percent, which is both kind of freeing and also shows me what to do next.
I can hum myself this way into another ten percent more relaxed, ten percent more functional, ten percent more at ease. Things are already different. Even if I am still distressed and distraught, still very much not at peace and not at ease, that ten percent shift actually makes a big difference.
And I can keep going, onward, let’s see if we can yawn and hum our way into the next ten percent, or the next indicated step (rolling, crying, writing, whatever is indicated)…
A Recipe for Self Soothing (3)
Lighting a candle (imaginary or not), or lighting incense (imaginary or not) for this free-fall, for a simple elegant solution, for comforts, for miracles, for whatever is needed.
I am lighting incense in Arizona for the safety of my home in New Mexico, for everyone who is hurting, for justice and a great righting and rewriting.
Rituals help. Monsters of self-criticism say this is isn’t useful counsel, that a ritual only a starting point, but so what? Starting points are great.
A Recipe for Self Soothing (4)
I like the intentional practice of making something delicious in a specific way.
Whether that something is the thing itself (making something to eat) or the plating (taking what is and making it beautiful, luscious and enticing).
We Do Grounding Things
I am practicing a lot of We Do Grounding Things, between the fires, the news and everyone I know being in a crisis that is also a tragedy that is also a free-fall. At least. Sometimes it’s also ten crises in a trench coat.
Anyway, I made salsa. Because salsa is a grounding thing.
(The food and not the dance, though dance is also a grounding thing but I can’t talk about that because I miss dance so much that I cannot bear to even think about it, I will cry, so we are talking about food instead.)
Of the earth
But first my radish greens were about to wilt so I made a pesto with them, tossing in parsley, spinach, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, and a garlic chili lemon oil I made last week, with cumin and aleppo pepper.
This was not a recipe and very much Use What You Have, and it ended up being exactly what I needed.
This pesto was rich, peppery and very much OF THE EARTH, which was the sensation I was craving.
Then I thought about making a spicy pineapple salsa, or possibly zhug which is the Yemenite spicy sauce of my dreams, but ended up making tomatillo salsa, because of Use What You Have. ANYWAY, SALSA.
Time for a new sensation
Here’s how I change the topic these days: ANYWAY SALSA
Gotta go, making something grounding and delicious. I am craving sensation. Stirrable spoonable spreadable sensations.
This, from Alyssa Harad, on Twitter:
“Another friend with very serious Long Covid alerted me to the fact that it often takes a long time to move from ‘I have a problem, let’s fix it’ to ‘whoops I have changed, this is my new identity now’, and until people make the shift they’re often in isolation.”
This was a clue for me not only about Long Covid but about a variety of current circumstances, and I think it might also be a general clue for any tumultuous life situations, so if this is also a clue for you, here you go.
It’s not a clue I particularly like, it’s a clue I appreciate (and I also appreciate Alyssa).
Absolutely I am not enjoying coming to terms with the notion that I may just not recover energy or brain power, that each day might be for one small thing, if that, and given that I am very much on my own, I have been rethinking and recalibrating every aspect of how I live in order to survive.
Still, I’d rather work with what is. I am not relinquishing hope for surprise miracles, and not deciding what is impossible or possible (because how can I know), just staying with the be here now of it, and figuring out my next move based on the knowns of whoops I have changed, this is my new identity now.
The tomatillo salsa I am making is a recipe from the Taste of Tucson cookbook by Jackie Alpers. This is a beloved cookbook that also tells the story of how Jackie, NJG (Nice Jewish Girl) from Cincinnati (a place I adore) ended up in Tucson (a place I also adore!) and how this place changed her, how her tastes changed as she immersed in Sonoran cuisine, reinventing her life and kitchen.
I live for the way she describes food.
Can green be a flavor? That is how Jackie describes this salsa, and that is why I wanted to make it, because that is what I am craving, the taste of GREEN, served with a spicy rice recipe she includes, with the following description:
“This rice is like summer in Tucson — dependably hot, greener than you might expect, and full of complexities that must be experienced to be appreciated.”
Yes please to all that. This sensory experience of GREEN as color and flavor, heat that is breathtaking, complex and craveable. And yes, you can depend on it. I want exactly this. I crave exactly this.
I want to want and crave again. The Return of the Dopamine. Calling this into my cauldron.
Is that the word I want?
I am on a food budget that some people might describe as severe, and trying to make it playful, a game. In the way that a haiku or a sonnet is based on restriction but the restriction informs the creativity.
Part of the game involves batching recipes in such a way they hopscotch one to the next, the radish greens become pesto, which along with the radishes goes into sandwiches and into salad.
The leftover garlic from my chili-lemon-garlic oil gets blended with the leftover yogurt for a spicy dressing for rice and salad. The rest of the yogurt becomes labneh, the whey from the labneh is used to make a savory breakfast loaf in place of buttermilk. It’s an elaborate game of timing.
I am always thinking three days ahead, scheming ways to turn what might look like not much into a feast of plenty and beauty, thinking about A Kingdom of Making Do, which I also refer to as Estuary It.*
*anagram for austerity, a truly depressing word, but estuaries are about flowing and movement and giving it to the water, Estuary It reminds me that I am playing a game.
Blessings of good fortune
I feel incredibly lucky, because the last time I was in a similar situation, the circumstances were more dire and also at that time I did not have access to a kitchen, or anywhere to store food, so my creativity had to be a hundred times more creative.
That was not a game. That was just trauma.
But right now I am hopscotching, and feeling very, very lucky. I like kitchen time. I like We Do Grounding Things.
I like tasting something and feeling the aliveness of the enlivening, feeling how the peppery richness of a radish green pesto is connecting me to the earth, the luscious pomegranate syrup I made for malabi takes me back to feeling high on pomegranate aliveness as we exited the market. Thwack!
What is the opposite of a tangle
My least favorite thing (okay, top thirty) is being misunderstood, and misunderstood in such a way that the misunderstanding becomes so tangled that I am unable to undo the tangle no matter how much I over-explain, and wow do I over-explain. This might be an autism thing.
And by this, I mean every single aspect of what I just said.
Obviously the worst form of being misunderstood is when someone misunderstands you in such a way that shows that they think you are a terrible person.
But all forms of wow no that was not what I meant, how do I convey the meaning.
Anyway, here is a memory that I emerged while I was making malabi, and then again when I was thinking about how the green of the pesto and how much I love that Jackie describes the tomatillo salsa as CAN GREEN BE A FLAVOR?
I was a little kid and in the way of the world of little kids, Tiny Me was asked what’s your favorite color.
Tiny Me told the truth: our favorite color was beige, and everyone laughed.
It took me a long time (years and years) to realize that of course we were talking past each other, this was, of course, like so many other things, a misunderstanding.
And really the problem was that I, being a small child, did not possess a richness of vocabulary to describe what I meant, and they, being neurotypical, didn’t have a richness of sensation to draw from.
So I am guessing they were picturing a bland beige, like a hotel carpet, while I was experiencing a rich, creamy, textured, buttery beige, something wholly delicious. A color to immerse in, a color so soothing that it could tabula-rasa away all the overload.
The beige I meant was calming, infused with its own golden glow, possessing a quiet potency, you only notice it when you know how to notice it. If you get it you get it.
Malabi is from Yemenite Jewish cooking, a vanilla-rosewater pudding, and you pour pomegranate syrup on top. The syrup forms a gorgeous deep red layer and it holds itself, which is part of the aesthetic joy of this dish. Then it is topped with pomegranate seeds, or my favorite version, shredded coconut.
The last time I made malabi it reminded me of my lost love, the color beige. I’d run out of granulated sugar and subbed light brown sugar, and worried the final product wouldn’t deliver on my third favorite thing about malabi, the first favorite thing being that I love malabi, the second favorite thing the way the syrup balances on the pudding, and then mixes itself in when you dig in with a spoon.
My third favorite thing is the contrast between the white pudding, the magenta-colored syrup, and the topping, but the malabi made with light brown sugar turned out to be an even better color, almost the color that I was unable to describe all those years ago to the children laughing at me.
Anyway, sometimes VIBRANCY can be quiet.
Vibrancy can be quiet
It’s not always the punch of spicy heat — though I adore spicy, and spicy can punch me as much as it wants, I’ll keep eating that spicy rice that makes me think of Tucson-in-108-degree heat and smile.
And it’s not always the ecstatic bliss of fresh pomegranate juice thwack thwack thwack that makes you think, yes, that was worth risking it all.
Sometimes vibrancy can be restoring myself to myself, reclining on the floor, thumbs in my ears, fingertips of index and middle fingers pressed to the center of my forehead, humming until I feel like I make sense again.
This is canon now
Sometimes the humming turns into some good rolling around which turns into pretending to be a bobcat which turns into more familiar movements that I have picked up from favorite teachers over the years, and I had the thought the other day while doing exactly this that yoga is stimming, actually.
And that probably lots of yoga teachers and other movement instructors are autistic, because a movement class is literally a place where it’s socially acceptable and encouraged to roll around on the floor and do repetitive self-soothing movements, and you get to INFO-DUMP ENTHUSIASTICALLY about a variety of your special interests.
Interests like physiology, anatomy, biomechanics, proprioception, self-awareness, pattern-mapping, compassion, playfulness, People Vary, literally all my favorite topics, would you like to hear the good word about yawning and why I think it’s so important?!
Say yes please. I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT IT.
Being myself is therapy (it’s not, but also it is)
There is a teacher in Tucson whose motto is Yoga Is Therapy, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that (I mean, okay, yes, I would argue that therapy and therapeutic are not the same thing, and also I extremely know what this person means, so I am not really going to argue it…)
Anyway, all parenthetical asides aside, maybe my personal version of that phrase is something like Movement Practice Is Inherently Autistic As Fuck Actually And I Love It, and is it a phrase or is it a battle cry
Anyway, the thought that all the yoga, feldenkrais, other movement classes I have been taking since oh 1996 or so have been secretly a mission in the autistic pursuits of stimming, info-absorbing and joyfully info-dumping made me laugh delightedly.
I got up and ate malabi with a tiny spoon and felt better about everything.
Tiny Spoon Malabi is therapy and also a form of ANYWAY SALSA.
Recipes are poetry to me
Recipes are poetry to me.
And maybe that sounds as nonsensical as X Is Therapy, but I actually mean this in the sense that I need to edit them three thousand times, and in the sense that they can bring me to a heightened state of curiosity and emotion.
A poem is also a recipe.
Or: Sometimes a poem is a recipe.
I am thinking about Cameron Awkward-Rich: Meditations In An Emergency
That is a poem and a recipe to me, it just happens to not be about food.
I also reach for a poem in the same way that I reach for recipes: when I need to calm the fuck down, or to be inspired in some way, or shocked into feeling something, or reminded of a grounding truth, a grounding pleasure.
Or just be reminded that other people also feel chaotic and dispersed, overwhelmed and undone, and sometimes they have to go write something and sometimes they have to go cook something.
A beautiful recipe
This Sandra Lim poem on Endings
The story has two endings.
It has one ending
and then another.
Do you hear me?
I do not have the heart
to edit the other out.
This poem helps me in the same way that reading a hundred recipes helps me.
I can’t explain it, it just helps to know that someone else is thinking about X —- let X = grief, loss and sorrow, let X = pesto, let X = pomegranates — as intensely as I am. Thwack. Thwack Thwack Thwack.
Notes, missions, things that are not in opposition
I leave all my notes in my recipes, so that each one is 90% notations about trial and error, the winding path of how I arrived at my most up-to-date working hypotheses re the ultimate pleasure-joy version of the dish.
Devoted to my one wish, the Return of the Dopamine.
The poet knows that grief is not linear, the recipe-writer knows that there is an order, there are pre-steps to the steps, and also that each time you make something it is new and evolving.
Poetry and recipe writing are not in conflict, their missions intertwine for me, even if on the surface it seems like [non-linear] and [follow the steps] are in opposition.
I never made pomegranate juice when I lived in the dome in southeastern Arizona. They grew on my property, and I’d talk to them sometimes, to the pomegranates.
Maybe I didn’t try because I knew it could not live up to my sense memory of thwack thwack thwack liquid rubies in a small cup. I knew it couldn’t be like that, and I didn’t want not-that.
That’s also why [a lot of things in my life actually].
I also did not make prickly pear juice or prickly pear jam, even though I was on five acres of prickly pear. At the time it sounded labor intensive and messy, but now that my brain is broken and I am looking for meditative repetitive therapeutic things to do (Prickly Pear Syrup Making Is Therapy ™️), I could kind of go for that, oh well.
Blessings upon the mission (of doing literally anything that helps)
I am definitely not going to tell you that cooking is therapy, and not just because People Vary, and also not just because I differentiate between therapy and therapeutic. Which I do.
(And, to be clear, I am in favor of both of them, therapy & therapeutic pursuits, providing you can find someone good for the former. Though honestly, the benefit of the latter might be the way it doesn’t involve wading through a bunch of garbage in search of a gem.)
I maintain that therapy is great, if you can afford it and find the right person which are too big ifs, but worth it if you can. As you know, I still see my therapist from the mid-90s, in my head, so there’s that.
And therapeutic is a blessing, absolutely, yes, find as many things in this category as possible, or one thing in this category that really does it for you, and go to town. Blessings upon this mission.
Blessings upon the healing things. Whatever fucking works, whatever helps. I support it.
Either way, cooking and food-prep are therapeutic for me in these times of trauma and fires and *gestures at everything, and I have been dealing with things by chopping. Thwack.
Decorating and plating are also like cooking, and like poetry. Creative space. Recipe-making is very therapeutic for me.
Yesterday I wanted to make more malabi, but didn’t have rosewater, and it occurred to me that what I actually wanted from the malabi was not so much the nostalgia of malabi, but that luscious CONTRAST in colors and flavors.
So I made an anise chai pudding (in the exact right shade of true beige), and a coffee-cardamom syrup that I mixed with cinnamon syrup, and served it with an obscene amount of shredded coconut, and it did the thing I wanted it to do…
I got to feel like a culinary genius for a moment and I got to taste Vibrancy, the Return of the Dopamine, and I got to run a tiny very delicious experiment that had no downsides.
I was talking to a friend who is really going through it about how we are both experiencing cooking as a saving grace in a difficult time.
We talked about how cooking is truly such a sneaky form of deep healing and most people don’t give it enough weight or credit.
She pointed out that it’s the one thing holding everything else together, the one thing you know you are going to do each day.
For me it’s also about [okay, yes, this takes time but it’s worth it] which is kind of a metaphor for the grieving / healing / recovery process itself, and all the hard things.
There is a time for stirring and a time to refrain from stirring
We talked about how it is Be Here Now, it is step by step, you do this one thing and you do the next thing and you know what comes after that. So in that sense it is very much not like loss and grieving, but it is grounding.
It is a sensory experience that comes with an accomplishment. There is a lot of repetition. You just keep chopping, you just keep stirring. Or now is the time that you need to not stir even though you are tempted.
(Jackie Alpers says, re beans, to just leave them covered and not stir, apparently stirring is the sign of an unsure cook, which makes them feel insecure, I love this, it feels like a rabbinic midrash.)
To every thing there is a season (and also a seasoning).
And the eating is also grounding. Taste, sensation, here now.
Up the lusciousness
Mainly I am just trying to UP THE LUSCIOUSNESS QUOTIENT so that no matter how hard or scary a given day is, no matter how intense the free-fall, at least I ate one thing that was like oh fuck yes, if this experience is brought to me by being alive, then aliveness is so good, this is what I want, these moments of taste, sensation, being of the earth.
And when I can’t achieve that, oh well, we are coping, we are doing our best, tomorrow is a new day, onward towards vibrancy.
A really good yawn and then several more, calming breaths, 10% more at peace, and VIBRANCY.
Just add vibrancy
I bought a small container of pomegranate juice and turned it into simple syrup (elevated with lemon zest), and used it to make malabi which you can see in the picture at the top. I made it in tiny jars, because tiny jars are adorable, and because everything tastes better with a tiny spoon, that’s just science.
So much of the mission of The Return of the Dopamine is about what enhances, what adds vibrancy, and tiny delicious puddings are a step in the right direction for me. If you want the recipe, I can post it sometime.
Mainly I am thinking about how else can I add vibrancy, what else can I infuse (in the kitchen, in my movement practice, while driving, while free-falling) with vibrancy?
To life. To health. To vibrancy.
To toasting with tiny pudding, and celebrating small moments of lusciousness, richness and life-thrummingly delicious flavor where we can find them.
Come play with me, I love company
You are welcome to play with any of the concepts here in any way you like.
You can brainstorm experiments, practices or rituals you would like to play with whether for your own times of free-fall, or for whatever you are going through, People Vary.
And as always, you’re invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, themes you’re playing with, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend of mine said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship is healing.
If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation, I could use some miracles right now with my various emergency situations.
I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing.
Or you can buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!
And if those aren’t options, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, tell people about this work, that all helps, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️