Years ago, my mom gave me an arty little tin with stickers inside that were the size and shape of the strips of paper inside fortune cookies.
But instead of squint-worthy predictions (You will be lucky in business at the earliest opportunity), these were practical verses. The package could have been labeled Quotes by Women for Every Temperament. They were straight-up or let-your-hair-down, grass-is-greener or bloom-where-you’re-planted kinds of sayings that were ideal for sticking to the edge of a café table and stifling a giggle as you walked out, wondering who would see it next and what kinds of changes such an omen might inspire.
I kept the best one, though. I stuck it to a sheet of lavender paper, cut a border around it, and taped it on the fridge at eye level.
Nobody really cares if you are miserable, so you might as well be happy.
Did the heavy feeling in my hands and fingers the first time I read this indicate that a word I associated with Éponine’s dying song was fit to describe…me? Was I miserable? And what was the incredulous, grateful thwock in my chest at the notion that a person had a breezy option for easing internal angst? Could I, could anyone, just be happy?
Those of us who take up pen or mixing bowl or spreadsheet with a gravity of soul need the quick wit of someone like Cynthia Nelms-Byrne, who I can only assume is the Cynthia Nelms named on my refrigerator quote. Google it, and you’ll see that the American painter has been rather over-quoted on this one. But, no matter. The Cynthia in my mind’s eye arches her brow at me, tosses out this quip, and offers to buy me another Sidecar.
Earlier this week I read Cloe Madanes’s article The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People, a tongue-and-cheek stab at self-perpetuating gloom and doom. It’s a wake-up call, a ribbing, a invitation to self-assessment.
Many of the over 1,000 comments deride Madanes for not taking mental health issues seriously. It’s good feedback, especially, I’m thinking, with the recent release of Allie Brosh’s book (if you’ve never known anyone with clinical depression, start with this post). But Madanes’s article isn’t meant to be a “get over it” speech for people who are clinically depressed. It’s about behavioral patterns, not illness. It’s for those of us who will, left to ourselves, edge over to the woe-is-me whirlpool and stick a toe in the current.
Taking photos in the front yard or cooking something bright helps me walk away from the whirlpool. Today was sunny and cold and the leaves in the shade were edged with frost. One benefit of ignoring the leaves, the lawn, the pruning, is the heightened texture in the yard. Long grass and carpets of leaves are interesting. The crabapples are the color of pomegranate seeds. It’s a good day for something light and bright and happy. I might as well make it.
Honey-Poached Beets and Carrots with Pomegranate Relish
The relish idea came from Sprouted Kitchen’s version, which was adapted from Bon Appetit. This is my version, made from what we had on hand over the weekend.
1 tablespoon green onion, minced
juice of ½ lime
½ teaspoon lime zest
olive or grape seed oil
3 slender carrots, including an inch of the green tops
1 large golden beet
1 tablespoon + one teaspoon honey
1½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
several good pinches of sea salt
Fill a large bowl with water. Using a chef’s knife, pierce the pomegranate at the crown end, pushing the knife in about an inch and a half. Twist to split the pomegranate open a bit then tear it in half using your fingers.
Plunge the pomegranate, a section at a time, into the water and remove the arils from the pith. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the pith and peel float. Skim the floaters off the surface of the water and repeat until the entire pomegranate is seeded. Pour off as much of the water as you can and then finish draining in a colander or strainer.
Place arils in a medium bowl. Add green onion, lime juice, and zest. Toss to combine. Drizzle only enough olive oil to coat the ingredients lightly. Add sea salt and black pepper. Toss to combine again and taste. Add a few grindings of white pepper (careful) and taste again, continuing to correct the seasonings.
Slice carrots in half lengthwise. Cut beet into 3- or 4-inch, fry-shaped pieces.
Fill a wide pan (I used a 12” frying pan) with water, to about 1½ inches deep. Turn the burner to high and add honey, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and taste.
Add carrots and beets. Bring back to a simmer and cook for seven minutes. Remove vegetables with a strainer and reserve on a serving plate. You may need to cook them in two batches.
Grind a little more black pepper over the poached vegetables and top with plenty of pomegranate relish.
Serve warm or cold.