Last night as I was cleaning up after dinner I found a piece of basil on the keyboard, stuck between the Z and the X key.
It was tricky to fish it out with a fingernail without holding down one of the keys, a good visual for what it’s like when I’m sitting down to write sometimes. Stuck right there, at the end of the alphabet.
This week is like that. Maybe writing is harder because it’s summer and I’m playing, not sitting in front of the computer. Maybe it’s because I’m preoccupied with the sad reality in our front yard: a major branch on our plum tree, so laden with fruit that it was blocking our neighbor’s driveway, snapped from the pressure of the strap my husband used to pull it up and out of the way. Half our beautiful bumper crop and much of the tree with it! All those plums.
But it’s more likely the words won’t come because I’m grieving, with all the sane and sad people around the country this week, the mass shooting in Colorado.
I have no words for you, Aurora. I wish I did. I wish I could write an intelligent essay on the senselessness of gun violence. I’d like to write that my sadness is big and real, but it’s only the foot that catches on the pavement. What comes tumbling down after is the body of grief, duct-taped together by indignation, defeatism and fear. I would write that all our grieving together would be enough, if the anger that should be at its center were universal, if the terrible crime of glory seeking were enough to incense us.
The waste of this loss, and all the losses to gun violence every year, make me want to go to bed and tell you all that I’ll see you again in a week. Why beautiful food? Remind me again?
This week I read that there is a heart-shaped meadow in England. A man there mourned and celebrated the life of his late wife by planting thousands of oak trees on his farm. The trees enclose a hedge that encloses a perfectly heart-shaped and grassy meadow, its tip pointing toward the place where she was born. In the spring, daffodils spring up in its center. I’d love to see that just once, from the air. Hundreds of flowers, crepe-paper yellow.
Her memorial has been growing for 17 years. And until recently, no one but the family knew it existed. It took the chance flight of a balloonist to spot and photograph it for the rest of us to see.
The man, Winston Howes, says, “it was a flash of inspiration – and I planted several thousand oak trees.”
It’s like that, I’m hoping. I hope people get an idea then start to write and march for sane gun laws. Including me. I hope I start. But more important, I hope we begin the process of reversing our fascination with firearms and the belief that guns make us safe.
It will take a very long time and the people will all need each other. We will need to be together, doing little beautiful things that will eventually grow into something bigger, something that will someday look like the picture we have in mind. We’ll need to work together and eat together. To eat comfort food together. To climb out of our rut at the end of the alphabet, draw a map of the big picture, take a few bites and start planting.
Black rice salad with shelling peas
adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
½ cup dry black rice
1 package extra firm tofu
2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons tamari
freshly ground pepper
½ cup shelled peas
handful of toasted sesame seeds
handful of chopped cilantro or other fresh herbs
½ teaspoon white miso
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2½ tablespoons rice vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon minced sweet onion
juice of half an orange
Rinse the black rice and bring 1½ cups of water to a boil.
Add the rice, bring back to a boil, stir and turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
Bring a small saucepan half full of water to a boil.
Place tofu cake between layers of paper toweling and press to extract extra water. Dice into small cubes.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add coconut oil. When it has melted and starts to bubble, add the tofu and sauté, without stirring, for about five minutes.
Meanwhile, place shelled peas into a strainer over the boiling water. Cover and steam until peas are just turning green, about three minutes (longer if you like your peas to be softer – I like mine raw or al dente).
Return your attention to the tofu and add tamari sauce and a little fresh pepper. Toss and sauté another few minutes, until edges are browned. Transfer to a plate.
Whisk the miso, honey, oil, vinegar, onion and orange juice together to make the dressing. Taste and salt as needed.
In a large bowl, combine the rice, tofu and peas. Toss with the dressing. Add the sesame seeds and cilantro and toss again.
Serve immediately or chilled, sprinkled with a little extra cilantro and sesame seeds, if you have them.