spaciousness or slurry

Recently, I was grooming our two pups.  We were outside.  It was at least 90 degrees with 85% humidity.  Mosquitoes were using us as their breakfast.  Ollie was wiggling.  Simon wanted nothing to do with any kind of grooming tool being placed on his body.  Hair, sweat, and fur were combined in a slurry on my face.  (Oh yeah, there may have also been some blood in the slurry due to the mosquito that bit me on the forehead.)

Did I have a feeling of spaciousness in these moments?  Ah, no.  In fact, I didn’t have a feeling of anything other than… oh my goodness, let’s get this done!  Between those thoughts and trying to keep the fur out of my mouth, I became sucked into the process.  I did not maintain presence of mind; and, I didn’t realize it until I got them both inside and got myself cleaned up.  Isn’t that how living in today’s world is?  Modern society sucks us into it’s process of being.  And, dare I say, we allow it to happen.

Well, ok. So this is not new news.  Modern life is busy.  But, how do we deal with it in relation to spaciousness?  Do our minds have an openness such that we can rest in the midst of everything?  What about our ability (my dwindling ability) to reside on an open platform with fewer encumbrances? Don’t we want that?

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When I think of spaciousness, I see myself physically pushing away life’s stuff.  Gently clearing a room with one sweep of the arm.  Why?  Because the external qualities of openness to me look and feel like an empty room with beautifully colored walls and gracefully arched doorways.  (To another, it may be the vastness of a mountain range.)  It is inviting. It draws me in. It’s space is silent.  It has no expectations.  It has no agenda. It is just there, open and waiting.

 

The internal qualities of spaciousness are quite similar.  Within this space, the fluctuations of our minds are calmed.  We drop our discordant selves.  The mind rests.  Even if only for a moment or two, it rests.  My sense for it is during that pause, we become suspended in awareness.  Simple momentary awareness.

 

How do we hit the pause button in everyday life?  Try sitting quietly for a few minutes each day and breathe.  We may notice our breath or the airplane that is flying overhead.  Notice and breathe.  This gracious space awaits all of us and is always accessible.  I’ll keep trying.  I’ll keep trying to bring my mind back to a resting place for a breath or two, choosing a little bit of spaciousness over slurry.

 
 

Before we reach enlightenment, we need to eat.  Below are a few ideas for a meal and side dishes followed by a recipe for Fig + Date Bread:

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Laura Calder introduced me to the idea that cauliflower, sliced olives, and julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes are a very nice combination indeed.

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Inspired by Giada DeLaurentiis, I made a dish combining cooked lentils and rice, corn, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, celery, carrot, garlic, topped with tomato slices, italian style panko bread crumbs and cheese.  In the oven at 350° for about 20 – 30 minutes melds the flavors and bakes the top layer of tomatoes and cheese.  

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My twist on a  raw mushroom salad.  It may not be for everyone, but if you like mushrooms it is interesting to try.  Thinly sliced mushrooms and green summer squash, tossed with a vinaigrette of lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Finish the salad with chopped parsley. 

Fig + Date Bread 

I was trolling Heidi Swanson’s site and came upon a recipe by Melissa Clark, Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread.  The bread looked wonderful.  It had huge chunks of chocolate, lots of bananas, and a glaze.  But, I wanted something different.  I love sweetening foods with dates lately, and I had figs in the frig.  So, I adapted Melissa’s recipe…

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Fig + Date Bread 

8 oz., fresh mission figs, rinsed, stems removed, and quartered, set aside

10 dried and pitted dates, thinly sliced, set aside

1 ripe banana, mashed, set aside

Dry Ingredients

2 c. whole wheat flour (spelt flour would also work well)

1/2 c. brown sugar

3/4 t. baking soda

pinch of salt

Wet Ingredients 

2 eggs

1/2 c. low-fat plain yogurt

1/3 c. vegetable or canola oil

1 T. lemon juice, (juice from 1/2 lemon)

zest of one lemon

1 t. vanilla

Instructions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º.  Butter a standard size loaf pan.  Set aside.  Prepare banana, dates, and figs.  Set aside.
  2. Combine and mix dry ingredients.
  3. Combine and mix wet ingredients.  Add the mashed banana to the wet. Mix well.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until combined.  Gently fold in the dates and figs.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake 40 – 50 minutes or until loaf becomes golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let loaf rest on a wire rack 15 minutes before turning out.

what is truth?

As much as baked oatmeal and spiced molasses cookies have been on my mind lately, truth has as well.  What is truth?  Do each of us have our own personal truths?  How can individuals view reality differently, if we do?  I have a need to come to an acceptance about this.  Or, at least, an acceptance of it as it relates to who I am now.

Certainly, there are universal truths that can be and have been scientifically quantified. But, personal truths seem to be a different matter.  It is all relative.

The exploration of truth led me to the theory of relativism.  (Stick with me here, I won’t stray too far from baked oatmeal.) In my limited understanding, relativism is a concept that explains there are varying points of view and frames of reference from which each of us view situations, there are no absolute personal truths.

Wikipedia defines truth, in part,  as a “state of being in accord with a particular fact or reality.”  In other words, an individual’s frame of reference and viewpoint will directly impact their perception of reality.  In following, it seems, one’s perception of reality will impact their truth.  Invariably, I come back to personal truth is always relative to a particular point of view, set of beliefs, or frame of reference.

Thank goodness oatmeal is easier to struggle with than truth.

I tried different variations of baked oatmeal only to be disappointed.   While the ingredients were appealing, oatmeal, milk, eggs, butter, raisins, the result wasn’t what I anticipated.  The final product didn’t have enough flavor.  The texture was too dry.  I was after a creamier consistency.

So, I started thinking about the dish from the bottom up.  For some reason a pineapple upside down cake sprang to mind – wouldn’t it be nice to have a sweet surprise at the bottom of the dish?  A sweet surprise that also lends a great deal of moisture….

such as mashed bananas…

 

layered with apples…

and sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Baked Oatmeal with Bananas and Apples

Cooks Note:  Not included in this recipe, but I think would make a good addition, are sliced almonds.  Next time I make this dish, I’ll add 1/2 c. sliced almonds to the dry mixture.  

This dish is best eaten warm out of the oven. However, leftovers heated up, topped with a little milk, honey, or applesauce is good also.

The brandy is optional.  I often use a little bit with baked apple dishes.   

Serves 6

4 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed

2 apples, sliced thinly

1 1/2 t. each cinnamon, nutmeg

2 c. old-fashioned oats

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 t. baking powder

pinch salt

1 c. milk

1 c. (scant) applesauce (I used natural applesauce)

1 egg

1/4 c. molasses

1/4 c. butter (melted and cooled)

2 t. brandy, optional

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 2 quart baking dish.  Set aside.  

2.  In a medium size mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork or potato masher.  Spread evenly in baking dish.  

3.  Thinly slice the apples.  Layer them evenly over bananas.  Sprinkle banana apple mixture with 1/2 t. each, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.  

4.   In same medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients, oatmeal, brown sugar,  baking powder, salt and remaining 1 t. each, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Stir to combine.  

5.  In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients until combined.  (The milk, egg, applesauce, molasses, melted butter, and brandy, if using.)   Pour the wet ingredient mixture into the dry ingredient mixture.  Stir to combine.  Pour evenly over the banana apple mixture.  

6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Increase heat to 400 degrees.  Bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until top begins to brown slightly.  Serve warm and ponder truth.