Making Space

The other day I felt the incessant need to clear some space in my house.  Maybe it’s just that I’m antsy to be moving at the end of the month, but I couldn’t help myself in boxing up some of my belongings and moving them along with a few pieces of furniture into the garage and out of sight.   I then rearranged a bit, opening up corners of the room which hadn’t seen the daylight in quite some time.  I dusted, I swept, I vacuumed, I felt cleansed.  Like a blockage had just been broken and the energy could, once again, flow freely throughout the space, through me.

It is this same stale space and burdensome feeling that a routine lifestyle brings me.  When I start to behave in habit, when I think not for myself nor even at all really, but rather lose sight of this mentality where room exists to grow, to learn, to expand my mind.  When my life lacks excitement, change and spontaneity, I feel stale.  Likewise, when my living space lacks a flow of energy, I become stale.  And when it is fresh, nurtured and comfortable, I too am balanced and evolving.  In this way, my living space parallels my life flow: space must first be made before the opportunities that bring health and happiness can present themselves.

This past summer I had a job that I found to be increasingly soul-sucking over the four months that I worked there.  Moving to a new city from a different state, my priorities were absolutely in the right place: to make money, and to put something more tangible on my food service resume in a town of extremely talented candidates.  It is for these reasons I am not regretful, but rather have come to learn in hindsight that this job was wasting away at me, my time and my integrity.  It was stale space.  Had I stayed there and toughed it out, I may have taken on a managerial position or moved up in the company in other ways, sure.  But no, no thank you.  Ultimately I felt a nagging need to quit, regardless of the outcome had I stayed.  So I did.

And just like that, the space was created.

It was at about the same time when I learned of a possible job opportunity at a restaurant that was to be opening up downtown in a few weeks.  What caught my attention most was that it is a restaurant of Chef Vitaly Paley of Paley’s Place in Portland, the restaurant that I had been eyeing since before moving out to this town.  If you have heard of Paley then you know that this is exactly the type of chef you want to be working for as both a server and a cook, and knowing this I doubted my own abilities to be up for the tremendous responsibility of presenting food of this caliber.  But I inquired anyway, just for the hell of it.  The following day I was handing in a resume to Paley’s Place and sitting down for an interview with the Chef’s wife Kimberley and Garrett, general manager of Imperial, my heart pounding my palms sweaty as ever.  The two weeks between the time I quit and the moment I received the phone call from Garrett were definitely not the highlight of my summer, but just getting a taste of the light at the end of this dark tunnel was enough to deem it a memorable one.

It’s one of the more difficult feelings a person can experience, the unknown.  To not know of the consequences or outcome of a decision, regardless of whether you think it is or isn’t right.   The anxiety is often so overwhelming for me that I cannot fully experience contentment in the present until I have an answer.  I find myself consumed by it.

It sucks.

Sometimes these opportunities are out of our control, and it may be difficult to perceive them in a positive light at first.  Case in point: my current living situation.  We gave our thirty days notice at the beginning of December with a promising lead on another shared living space that seemed too good to be true.  It was, it fell through leaving us with not only an empty void to be filled but a gaping hole to clumsily climb out of.   In a sea of soulless craigslists ads we are swimming against the tide.  In fifteen days we officially become homeless, it is not an easy prospect to accept.  It is, in fact, extremely nerve-racking and a feeling I do not take comfort in.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But like a flash flood in a moment’s notice, that space becomes filled with an opportunity that’s almost always more meaningful that what existed before it.  What follows is the best part:  an overwhelming feeling of relief and gratitude.  This feeling I can recall most recently when I was offered the position at Vitaly Paley’s Imperial.

If you see your ideal life differently than how it is now; if you are unhappy and seeking change; if you find yourself drained by your surroundings, then there is something you should know.  You must first rid yourself of that which is unfulfilling if you seek to create space for those meaningful opportunities to arise and to experience true growth.

Pre-Thanksgiving Cleanse Update

Today is day 4, and I have to admit I woke up feeling pretty groggy for the first time in a few days.  This may or may not have to do with my diet over the past four days.  The first three days I felt pretty dang great.  I’ve had a extra pep in my step and mental clarity that I often felt I was missing before.  It’s been a great feeling so far!

I thought I’d be craving bread, dairy and sweets much, much more than I actually am!  The one time of day I’ve found myself in a bind is late night after I get home from work.  I’m usually in a snacky mood but not in the mood to cook anything.  This is the time when I would normally reach for something easy like bread, crackers, or cereal, I have had to battle a bit here.  Instead though, I’ve stocked a few go-to items that I can grab and not feel terribly guilty about, like almond butter and hummus.  I will literally eat spoonfuls at a time…is this weird?

Since my boyfriend’s diet consists mostly of these three food groups, I thought that it’d be harder to do a cleanse like this since I’m constantly around it.  It’s really not that bad!  This morning I watched him eat  two eggs (which I don’t consider to be dairy and am still eating) on buttered toast as I sat there drinking my measly green juice.  As good as it looked to me, it wasn’t difficult to watch him eat it without giving in.  This was a welcomed surprise!  Tonight’s our first night off together this week, so having dinner around him probably won’t be as easy…

The only real issue I’m having is at work.  Something I’ve already learned is to always eat before coming into work.  You see, I work at one of Portland’s best restaurants where the sight, smell and temptation of decadent and delicious food is absolutely unavoidable.  To make matters worse,  some of my fellow workers are constantly giving me shit and trying to tempt me to eat things like buttered crushed potatoes, french fries topped with cheese sauce or hollendaise sauce, etc.  It’s not so much that I’m craving it and it makes it more difficult to resist so much as it’s just really annoying.

I have kept a log of everything I’ve eaten in the past few days, for myself and also so that you may get some ideas as to what’s available if you choose to do something like this.

Day 1

  • green juice (kale, cucumber, apple, ginger, carrots)
  • kale salad with preserved lemon, beets and chick peas
  • grilled romaine salad with fresh herbs, tomato and marinated onion (this salad is on the menu at Imperial and normally comes with feta cheese and fry bread croutons, which I omitted)
  • a pear
  • almond butter
  • hot tea/ soy chai

Day 2

  • green juice (apple, pear, swiss chard, carrot, cranberry)
  • steel cut oats with 100% maple syrup, cinnamon, flax, chia and an egg sunny side up
  • chickpeas sauteed in olive oil and spices
  • almond butter
  • hummus
  • KIND gluten-free nut bar
  • a few bites of steak at Imperial
  • hot tea/hot water with lemon

Day 3

  • Green Juice (cranberry, grapefruit, orange, kiwi, swiss chard)
  • steel-cut oats with persimmon, flax and chia
  • New Season’s turkey chili
  • New Season’s harvest vegetable slaw with kale, carrot and cabbage tossed in apple cider vinaigrette
  • ginger kombucha
  • a few bites of kim-chee (I’m currently obsessed with it)

Day 4 (so far)

  • green juice (kiwi, cucumber, swiss chard, pear)
  • coconut water

I must admit that having a juicer helps A LOT, especially because drinking a veg/fruit juice in the morning keeps me fully and happy for a few hours, almost more than a full breakfast would.  If you are interested in a similar cleanse or maybe to improve your diet a bit, you can find relatively inexpensive juicers such as the Jack LaLanne, which is what I have.  This juicer is tons of fun, effective, easy to clean, and amazing for your health.

Awareness in Food

In preparation for one of my most favorite holidays, I’m accepting a challenge to myself.   I’ve decided to devote these next nine days to kicking my own willpowers’s ass into shape.

I’m going dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free.  To clarify, it’s not because I think these foods in particular are “bad” for me.  Rather, it is because of my love for dairy, gluten, and sugary foods.  In monitoring my intake strictly for these next few days, I hope to become more in tune with how the foods I eat affect my body and mind.  I hope to detoxify my body by eating a mainly plant-based diet.  And most importantly, to grow a greater awareness with food.

This is why.

Nutrition is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.  Like, A LOT.  How what we eat affects our body so deeply, more deeply than we know.

About a month ago, I got back into the practice of yoga and am already feeling the positive benefits both physically and mentally.  In thinking about the mind body relationship, I have seen how the choices of the mind can greatly affect one’s physical nature.  Choices in food are purely an act of the mind.

I often ask myself, what does it mean to eat healthy?   To eat meat or not to eat meat?  Grain-fed or grass-fed?Organic or sustainable?  Dairy or lactose-free?  Soy?  Gluten?  Carbohydrates?  Refined sugar, synthetic sugar substitutes, or no sugar at all?  What about high-fructose corn syrup? Is there such a thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats?  Are processed foods okay in moderation?  Are all calories created equal?   Et cetera.

These are all questions that run through my mind constantly.  Some questions I believe to have more accurate answers to than others, but there is simply too much conflicting information out there to lay it out in black and white.  For the most part, though, it’s simple.  A healthy diet should include primarily plant-based foods (fruits and veggies), lots of nuts, seeds, complex carbohydrates, and healthy proteins.

More significant than the food itself, though, the key a healthy diet for me has recently become the cultivation of an awareness with food.  This is something that I’ve thus far habitually neglected.  I consider myself to be a balanced eater, but too often for me is food consumed mindlessly and without gratitude.  I am guilty of thoughtlessly grabbing a snack simply out of boredom, I do this all the time.  I also often find myself eating a meal too quickly, again, mindlessly.  This is also something that I hope to change.

By simply being aware, I can recognize when I’m actually hungry and when I’m just bored or eat out of habit.  I can be conscious of the circumstances under which the food is created.  I can consider whether the food I’m eating is something that was nurtured with respect and integrity, or a mass produced mishmash of chemicals and corn syrup.  Through my awareness, I may slow down and appreciate the sensations of a meal: the flavors, the texture, the atmosphere, and my company.  To listen to the feeling of satiety, and to witness how my food affects me both physically and mentally, that is to be mindful.

Please don’t misunderstand me: awareness does not necessarily mean one must eat a strictly “healthy” diet.  Rather, it simply implies that we should be cognizant of what we are putting in our bodies habitually, and to understand how it will affect us.  Consider alcohol: if you have eight drinks without taking a moment to consider the consequences of a severe hangover, you’re way more likely get after it!  However, I can bet that if you took the time to think about how crappy you’d feel the next day before having your second or third drink, you’d likely stick with only one or two.  But hey, if you want to party your ass off one night or eat a particularly indulgent meal every now and again and have understood the repercussions, I’m all for it (and I’ll probably join)!  Regardless of our choices though, we may develop a more direct relationship with certain foods (and drinks) and how they affect our bodies and minds through awareness.  That is, particularly if well-being is a priority for you.

I often wonder, do I have control over the foods I eat, or do the foods that I eat control me?  I would like to think that I have control, but the latter becomes the truth all too often.  To have complete control of your diet takes a great deal of effort, patience and willpower, so much so that I often doubt my own abilities.  From simply abstaining from reaching into the cabinet for those yummy goldfish crackers, to opting for a healthier option on a menu chock full of greasy deliciousness. Strengthening willpower is as crucial to your health and well-being as frequent exercise.  Being mindful of my intake is the first step.

Today is Day 1 of my challenge, and so far I’m going strong on a green juice of kale, cucumber, an apple, and a few carrots.  Having a juicer is so crucial, and I want to thank my parents for that!

I will keep you updated on my observations and findings.

Reclaiming my Blog

Is anyone still out there?

If so, I owe you an apology.  I didn’t intend for it to be this way.  When I started this blog, I was excited to be cooking all the time and to document my recipes for you.  It was not only an online recipe collection for me, but it was a way of interacting with others, especially those people who were once in my life or are still a part of it emotionally but maybe not physically (you know what I mean).  Having lived a few different lives and met so many wonderful people along the way, this is my way of reaching out to you.

At the time of its creation, I titled my blog No Such Recipe with the intention to documenting my exploration into the world of food, in creating new and fun ways of doing so.  Although I found inspiration in other food blogs and recipes, I wasn’t interested in simply following someone else’s measurements and ideas blindly.  Through these first few months I accomplished a lot culinarily: I took risks in cooking foods that I’d never encountered, I sought culinary mentors and absorbed all that I could, I developed a genuine passion for quality and variety of ingredients and I grew my own culinary identity.  These are accomplishments that I will carry with me always.

Although I continue to cook regularly and still find much gratification in my cooking, I have felt less desire to document every kitchen encounters on my blog.  It was never really my intention to have people follow my recipes meticulously, rather I had hoped that people would use my ideas to get in their own kitchen and step outside their culinary bubble.

I still haven’t found my groove yet.  I want more out of this blog than simply banter and recipes.  I want fulfillment and expression without structure.  I want to get to a place where my relationship with my blog is a source of inspiration, expression, communication, and contentment.  I want meaning.

Onwards, I will write when my mind has something to say, photograph when a vision speaks to me, and cook when I am in the mood.  I want No Such Recipe to reflect my original intention as an outlet for personal expression first and foremost.  This, I’ve come to understand, is the ultimate meaning behind the title, in creating the recipe for a life that is my own.

As of late:

I have become much more focused on what I eat and how it affects me.  I have focused my awareness on my health and well-being.  This is a physical awareness as well as a mental one.

I’m striving to live in the moment, each moment.  And to remind myself of this when I lose sight.

Present, aware, healthy, cozy, inspired, overwhelmed, optimistic, curious, nostalgic.  This is how I’ve been feeling.

Yoga, bouldering, soccer, rainy day jogs.  Spending time with my puppy.  Drinking and exploring tea.  Reading about natural medicines and health benefits of foods, juicing lots of fruits and veggies.  Appreciating the creativity in Portland and taking it all in, especially in the form of seasonal beers.  Basking in the dreary fall weather and colorful leaves all over the ground.  Zombie pub crawls and watching The Walking Dead.  This is mostly what I’ve been doing.

The terrible devastation of Sandy and how I wish I could do more to help.  Old friends and those who I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.  Whether I want to ask inquire about working prep for Imperial and in general get more involved with the food production aspect of the restaurant.  If I want to invest in a season pass to Meadows on Mount Hood, how I miss Aspen but am stoked to find out what winter’s all about in Portland.  How to create a positive and comfortable living space, if I want to seek a new place to live in Portland, and my incessant desire travel the world.  The holidays.   Aliens and other mysterious things beyond our comprehension. How I can best use my new cast iron skillet.  These are some of the things I’ve been thinking about.

Breakfast sandwiches, butternut squash in any and every way, soups and stews, cornbread, pumpkin muffins, various juices.  These are the things I’ve been cooking lately.  

I hope you’re enjoying your November.  Be well, friends.