Friday, December 7, 2007

The Comfort of Home

I just got back from two months away. It was supposed to be two weeks, but then it turned into three and five and almost eight. This is far from atypical in my search for stability, for Home-with-a-capital-H; my elusive ideal that so many take for granted.
So here I am, back at "home", back from "home" and very confused.
OK, let me backtrack: I have moved more times than years I've been alive. In my life, I've moved when my parents decided to distract themselves from other issues, when roommates stopped being kind, when I needed a change of career, when boyfriends didn't work out, when I was bored, scared, tired or in love, when I felt the need for change, when I felt that I was getting too comfortable.
Some people eat, others find shrinks. I do both of those. I also move.
After all, there's nothing like a good move to put things in perspective. All of a sudden, that bowl you thought you couldn't live without arrives cracked in two and you don't care because there is no space for it anyway; your grandmother's wicker basket that is covered in mold suddenly loses its sentimental value, you finally face the fact that the card your very first boyfriend gave you really shouldn't be among your stuff anymore.
I move, because it's easier than staying, less frightening than putting down roots.
Or at least I did … until I met D. D doesn't move: he’s got roots that he’s very proud of, he has about four million friends who all live in the same city, he subscribes to magazines and buys apartments.
This basic difference between us is also apparent in how we pack for moves (or holidays, if I’m perfectly honest)
Whereas I clean house when I move, D shoves everything into whatever box or bag he can, promising himself to "deal with it later". He assumes he’ll have the time whereas I know I’ll be moving again sooner rather than later; so I sort through my belonging before I decide to take them with me.
But in our life together, D doesn't do the unpacking, I do. And my retrieval of dirty tissues, empty food wrappers and other disgusting, non-important-yet-took-up-space-in-the-move effects have made for some interesting and loud pre-and-post-move "discussions".
I yell, D looks scared; I get angry, D gets sad; I feel guilty, D wraps me in his arms and comforts me.
Sometimes, when I wonder why we are together, whether there is anyone else out there for me, and, more often, why D isn't with some nice, subdued girl with bangs, I remind myself that if I were to find someone who would put me back in my place more, we'd probably kill each other within six months.
I take comfort in D while still wondering -- even after three and a half years, even after a ring and a wedding to plan -- when he will wake up and realize that he can do better than the fat, neurotic, bitchy freak that I am.
But regardless of my fears and insecurities, my instinct to move no longer applies. I can't move away every time we have a fight, when D gets mad at me (yeah, like that ever happens!) or me at him (this is the more realistic scenario), or when he looks at me with hurt that I have caused (yeah, this happens way too often as well). I can't move when I have a bad day, when I feel like an outsider and need to search for my "home".
-- Eye Rolling Moment Alert --
Because D is my home. The eternally homeless girl, the Wandering Jew, the rootless, aimless child has found a home. It’s called sitting in front of the television holding his hand and munching on dinner with a glass of wine, trying to stay in bed as long as I can so I can wake him up at a decent hour (I rarely succeed), staying on the phone talking about nothing just so I can hear his voice for a little longer, missing our rhythm when I’m away because it’s a good combination of mine and his.
What is most shocking to me is that from this wonderfully comforting place, I still search for an ideal "home" -- a place where we'll never argue, where I'll accept D's foibles and stop seeing him as weak, a place where I'll stop battling my self. Even in this wonderful, blissful place, I still yearn for some ideal, a perfection that could never exist because I am a flawed being as is D (though he would have a harder time admitting it than I would).
In my moments of clarity such as this one, however, I realize that part of "home" is all of those things: the cycle of ups and downs, the days of acceptance and those of questioning, the sad moments and the ecstatic ones. Because only at home is it safe enough to ask all those questions, to feel all those feelings; and to find a quiet spot in which to deal with them in my own way, in my own time.
Home is where the questions are.

Comfort Food for the Health Conscious:

Morning Shake

Overnight, soak 1 T of flax seeds in water

In the morning, blend:

The flax seeds with
1T raw cacao
1T mesquite powder (if no mesquite is available, try molasses, carob or maple syrup)
1T nut or seed butter – hemp, almond, cashew, pumpkin, tahini or avocado (adds less taste)
banana and/or berries (optional)
a pinch of cinnamon (optional)

in water or rice milk or home made nut milk* or milk (if you drink it), or coconut

(also optional – protein powder, maca, green powder, coconut butter)

* nut milk: cover nuts – almonds, brazil, cashew, etc -- with water and soak overnight. In the morning, rinse them in a strainer. Then blend with fresh water (the more water you put, the thinner it will be). You can add sweetener or vanilla or cinnamon at this stage but that is not necessary. Strain the liquid into a jar and use as nut milk.
This usually doesn't stay fresh for more than two days or so.
Note: the pulp left over can be dehydrated / dried, and ground up for use as flour.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Runner Beans

A while ago I had dinner with my stepfather. One of the specials was runner beans. Seeing as he is a marathon runner, I somehow assumed it was some kind of joke. But no, runner beans are a very British bean, a long, tough, green bean that looks a bit like the fava in the shell only runner beans have tougher yet edible skins. Then, as is the law of the universe, I started encountering this new bean everywhere I looked: at the health food store, the market. Runner beans went from zero to obsessive in the space of about 7 seconds. I relented and bought a bag to experiment with.

My fiancé is not Jewish, I am. He has his culture; I have mine. Neither of us is religious. I do, however, feel a responsibility towards my culture and would like to incorporate some of my traditions in our life together. Over the past few years, there have been many interesting conversations in this regard basically all around the same question: how do I incorporate my culture into our lives in such a way that my partner will not feel excluded?

The first such conversation was about our future, fantasy son: if and when we have a son, would he be circumcised? And if so, who would perform the act? In the Jewish tradition, a Mohel -- someone I think of as an old man with a long beard -- does the circumcision. It goes something like this: the Mohel gives the baby a finger dipped in wine to suck on (which, in my opinion can not be enough to numb that kind of pain, but that’s a whole other issue); he recites a bunch of prayers, does the deed, and holds the poor kid up for all to see. Not only is this poor seven-day-old baby completely naked surrounded by more people than he has ever seen in one place (not to mention that they must appear like giants), but in addition, a stranger cuts off a piece of his body.

There was no way my partner was going to agree to that. Though he was all for circumcision itself, D insisted someone with a medical degree perform the snip. Then there was the small question of the words mumbled, the prayers, which D didn’t feel comfortable with either: not understanding what’s being said about your own son at his first ritual is probably not high on anyone’s preference list (it didn't help much when I assured him that I wouldn't understand them either).

After a good few hours of conversation, it boiled down to this:
Neither of us wants to feel left out of rituals or traditions surrounding our union and our family. We decided that we would create our own: our rituals will honor tradition and include us both at the same time.

In practical terms, what this will mean for our son’s circumcision, for example is that we have broken it down into two separate events: the snipping of the penis and the naming ceremony. One will be performed by a doctor, in a hospital; the other will take place at home, and be presided over by someone we both agree on.

Another tradition that we have adopted and appropriated is Shabbat dinner. I'm not talking about the prayer laden, no electricity kind of religious Shabbat dinner. For us, Shabbat is an excuse to get together with family and friends, to cook together and spend an evening sitting around the table, enjoying the end of the workweek, easing into the weekend.

Throughout the week, we plan the menu -- I try to cook something I have never made before each week so that I can expand my repertoire (so far so good!). It’s actually quite funny as one of us will throw out a suggestion, often a propos of nothing. We can be talking about work and I will ask “what about broccoli?” or we can be watching TV and D will say “I quite fancy duck this Shabbat.”

Then, Friday, we go to the market and pick up the necessary goods. Along the way, we taste whatever we can of that week’s produce – delicious!

Then we cook. Mostly I cook and he sets the table; but sometimes we cook. Regardless, we spend the day together preparing. We host friends, light the candles, drink too much wine. We take a minute to appreciate the week that was and the week that will be, to be grateful.

Then after dinner, we wash the dishes together and go over the evening, the stories, the food. It is a wonderful way to be together while honoring one of the most important traditions of my culture. I love it.

On our first Shabbat, I decided to take a shot at doing something with the famous runner beans. It was fantastic: subtle yet tangy, warming with every note of fall imaginable -- the hit of the meal. I rely on personal taste and instinct for most of my recipes, but especially this one. I love ginger. Hooray for runner beans!

RUNNER BEANS WITH CHESTNUTS, GINGER AND GREEN ONIONS (or the simplest autumn dish ever made)

Chop ginger very fine
Chop up green onions
Chop up chestnuts

Sautee them on low heat in olive oil, in a pot. Once the oil is hot, lower the heat.

While that is sautĂ©ing, chop up runner beans – cut off the ends and discard and then chop pieces about ½ in diagonally.

Add to the pot once the ginger, chestnuts and green onions are done enough. Add salt and pepper.

Leave on very very low heat for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve hot.